2009 Faculty and Staff Fall Convocation

Streaming Video of 2009 Fall Convocation

Michael Jamnick, Student Government President;
Mark Jaede, Faculty Association President;
Adam Klepetar, MSUAASF President;
Kim Johnson, AFSCME-Council 5 President;
David Sikes, MAPE Representative;
Sara Grachek, Middle Management Association President;

Address by President Earl H. Potter III

Thank you, Michael, Mark, Adam, Kim, David and Sara for your warm and positive greetings.  We deeply appreciate the leadership and commitment to service that you demonstrate in representing your colleagues.

Also with me on the stage is our new Provost, Devinder Malhotra, and Vice President for University Advancement, Craig Wruck – both of whom you’ll be hearing from later.  Both are key new members of the team that will help guide us in the coming years.  Seated on stage as well are familiar faces, Vice President for Administrative Affairs Steve Ludwig and Vice President for Student Life and Development Wanda Overland, who continue to demonstrate a profound dedication to their leadership positions. 

Also with us this morning is our new Dean of the College of Fine Arts and Humanities, Todd DeVriese; and recently named Interim Dean of the College of Education, Glen Palm.  Would you both please stand?

And now I’d like to ask our 75 new faculty and staff to stand and be recognized.  This will be a richer, more successful institution because you have chosen to join us.  We thank you for your choice and offer you welcome. 

I would also like to introduce some the best examples possible of community leaders who have given unwavering support to St. Cloud State over the years: 

With us today are alumnus Mayor Dave Kleis, Senator Tarryl Clark and alumnus Representative Larry Haws.  Other members of our legislative delegation who are not able to be here with us have sent their greetings.  We are grateful for the many benefits of their hard work on our behalf.

Acknowledgements and Prospects

This is the third time I’ve had the privilege of addressing our campus community at fall convocation, and I’d like to take this opportunity to reaffirm my love for this university, my commitment to its mission and my profound respect for all that you do for students and for St. Cloud State.  You are what makes it possible for us to make a difference in the lives of thousands of students every day.

This past year we have felt the influence of rapid change…. from historic elections, to global economic turmoil and changes in our state that call for new responses from a public university.  As a university community, we have been resilient in the face of challenge and open to new opportunities.  We have effected change and progress through new programs, new facilities and new talent, strengthening our role as a dynamic, vital educational, cultural and economic resource for our region, our state and our world.

We will continue this challenging work in the coming year. We will do good work because we will do it as a community comprised of many voices and many different perspectives.  I pledge to listen, to help us discover consensus and to support the plans and programs that emerge from the work that we will do.  And at this time next year, I know that we will look back on another year in which we have moved forward together. 

Sustainability

Our theme for this convocation week is sustainability, and organizers have put together an exciting lineup of activities and presentations that incorporate and encourage practices that are good for our environment and good for the future of St. Cloud State.  

At our lunch buffet tomorrow we will eat products from local growers. I want to thank the folks from Sodexo for working with Faculty Sustainability Task Force Chair Mitch Bender and others to make this event possible.  The growers being featured, including the people who created our own campus community garden, are being good stewards of the land by using practices that sustain natural resources.  

We expect many of them will participate in the Atwood Memorial Center Community Farmer’s Market that will be launched August 31.  This exciting initiative was proposed by Kathy McLeod, a receptionist in Atwood Center…. another wonderful example of how the ideas of caring people throughout the university can change the ways in which we work to fulfill our mission.  The Market will promote sustainability by making locally grown foods provided by off-campus vendors as well as campus growers available on campus each Monday through October 5.

This morning I’d like to focus on the concept of sustainability in its broadest interpretation – developing and applying best practices to support and nourish all aspects of our university.  In business they refer to this perspective as the “triple bottom line”….attending to ecological, social and financial outcomes in managing a business.  This perspective is especially important to an institution that must be what it teaches and which cannot accomplish its mission without being a strong, inclusive and anti-racist community.  We will accomplish these objectives by making sustainability, most broadly defined, a cornerstone of our identity.

There’s a Chinese Proverb that says:  “When planning for a year, plant corn. When planning for a decade, plant trees.  When planning for life, train and educate people.”   There’s no doubt at St. Cloud State, we are planning for life… the life of each student, the life of each of you, and the life of our university.

We have started by seeking to understand our challenges.  Two task forces – the Faculty Sustainability Task Force and a Sustainable Operations Task Force assessed where we are and where we might go.  In the coming year we will bring this work together in a strategy for implementation.  We have discovered that we have both great strength and great opportunity.  You will be able to learn about this work over the next few days.

At the same time our Diversity Task Force has been deeply engaged in comparable work to assess our practices and strategies for building a truly multi-cultural university community.  They will continue their work this year even as we make real time decisions to address conflicts and seize opportunities as the events of the day present them.  In all of this work we will not lose sight of our core purpose…. to educate students for work and life in the global community that will characterize the 21st century.

Globalization

To this end I want to reaffirm my commitment to global education.  Over the past year I have focused energy on securing relationships abroad that will offer our students a wide variety of extraordinary opportunities to gain understanding and insight into global cultures and issues. 

Last Saturday, I joined faculty and staff members at emeritus Roland and Rachel Fischer’s home to welcome a new group of eight students from Bin Hai College of Nankai University here to study for two years.  In the fall we will welcome a new contingent of students from Malteppe University in Turkey to study English as a second language.  These students will join a rich and evolving international community on our campus, including for the first time this year students supported by the Fulbright Commission and a number of other prestigious national and international scholarships. 

Our global engagement is growing even as we work to bring to closure a vision for our future as a globalized institution.  I am excited by the energy and focus of a large number of faculty and staff members doing work that is critically important to our future.  Thank you all.

Physical Evidence that SCSU is on the Move

In fact, when you look around and consider the many exciting things happening on this campus, despite an economic crisis that has had devastating consequences for many, it is clear that our university is moving steadily forward.

We have exceptional infrastructure projects completed, in progress or in the works:

  • You may have noticed the latest beautifully renovated historic gem on our campus, Riverview.  Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, Riverview was opened in 1913 as a laboratory school where St. Cloud Normal School students honed their teaching skills to the benefit of local schoolchildren.  Now the new home for the Communication Studies Department, it is a stunning reminder of both our strong heritage and our promising future.
  • This past spring semester biology and chemistry moved physically into the 21st century with safer and more modern classrooms, laboratories and offices in the Wick Science Center Addition.
  • This important move was the first in a three-step science initiative that is destined to make St. Cloud State the leader in science education in our state with facilities that support academic excellence and service to students and faculty.
  • Moving the Nursing Department and Communication Sciences and Disorders and Audiology into Brown Hall spring semester of this year will be the second step.
  • And the third step is the Integrated Science and Engineering Laboratory Facility (ISELF) which will be the capstone of the University’s capability for science education. These three steps led by Dean David DeGroote represent a case study on the power of positive community partnerships. ISELF would never have been approved without the support of Medtronics, and local firms like MicroBiologics, the St. Cloud Area Chamber of Commerce and the Partnership for Economic Development.
  • Another great example of the power of partnerships is St. Cloud State University’s Science Express.  The “Express”, which is a mobile lab housed in a 18 wheel truck trailer is a gift to the University from Medtronics.  This project which is the brainchild of biology associate professor Bruce Jacobson, is taking SCSU’s strength in science education to communities across Central Minnesota. 

These projects mean so much more than new bricks and mortar.  They embody innovative designs that will offer our faculty new opportunities for teaching and our students cutting edge environments for learning.

Partnerships are Making the Difference

The impact of partnerships is also visible in another facet of the life of the University.   This past year Vice President Wanda Overland and her staff completed a comprehensive review of residential housing.  This review provides the foundation for the renewal of on-campus housing but it also provided the information that helped us build a partnership with the community to create 5th  Avenue Live, an exciting public-private partnership that will house students, create new commercial space close to campus and house a 12,000 square foot university welcome center. 

You can see the start right now on the west side of the 300 block of 5th Avenue.  The first phase of this project will open next August and will allow us to take a giant step towards reshaping the interface between the University and the community. 

The banners on University Avenue were just the first step in announcing our presence and living into the role that we must play as a partner with the community of St. Cloud.  There is much more to come.

You may have the sense by now that I am excited about partnerships…. with the community, across disciplines, between faculty and staff and students and campus professionals.  Partnerships… effective partnerships… are making a difference, in fact, recognizing that good partnerships are comprised of fine individuals, partnerships are the most powerful force for change and development that is available to us. 

I’d like to talk about a just a few notable examples:

  • The Behavioral Intervention Team or B.I.T. was created in the fall of 2007 as the result of recognition that students with complex needs often require coordinated and sophisticated support in order to achieve success at St. Cloud State.

    The B.I.T. is an interdisciplinary team of people from seven different offices that consults with faculty and staff members who are seeking to help students.  During the 2008-2009 academic year, the B.I.T. provided support in nearly one hundred student cases. It is no exaggeration to say that this team increased student success, made the campus a safer place, and saved lives.
  • Our Veterans Support Center is a national model and a resource for more than 500 student veterans and their families. This month we received notification St. Cloud State has been named by G.I. Jobs magazine as a Military Friendly School for 2010, an honor that ranks us in the top 15 percent of all colleges, universities, and trade schools nationwide for student veteran services.  We have more work to do.  As a result of great work by the Veteran’s Task Force last year we will create a standing advisory group to oversee completion of the recommendations of the task force and keep our services attuned with the changing needs of our veterans.
  • Earlier this year St. Cloud State became one of only 106 institutions in the nation to given designation as a National Center of Academic Excellence in Information Assurance Education.  The Center for Information Assurance is a joint effort between the Department for Information Systems Department in the  Herberger College of Business and the Computer Networking and Applications Department in the College of Science and Engineering.  The designation as a center of excellence brings many benefits to St. Cloud State, including a $92,000 grant for student scholarships and help to purchase a computer forensics workstation with the capabilities to examine cell phones.   And this fall Center Director Mark Schmidt and his colleagues are introducing a master’s degree program in information assurance.  I feel safer already.
  • The UChoose program led by Rob Reff has been so successful on our campus that the Department of Education recently awarded St. Cloud State a grant to help SCSU expand and strengthen the existing community coalition whose goal it is to reduce underage drinking.

    With $299,000 from the DoE, the University will reach out to the St. Cloud Technical College to reach a total of 11,000 students through a new model of prevention collaboration between the University, the SCTC, and the community – both on and off campus.  While there are some controversial aspects of this program, there is no doubt that UChoose is improving lives and increasing student academic success through another example of the kind of initiative demonstrated by St. Cloud State University faculty and staff when they face a tough challenge.
  • Faculty members from across the campus have been involved this summer in discussions and planning for a new  interdisciplinary initiative funded  by an initial $125,000 planning grant from the Bush Foundation.  The goals of the Bush Initiative include delivering vast improvements in student academic growth, insuring evidence-based practices, creating partnerships with institutional leadership to ensure long-term transformational change, engaging K-12 stakeholders in a substantive manner to improve educational outcomes for kids, and guaranteeing the effectiveness of new teacher graduates.  Our Co-Directors, Kathy Ofstedal (CoE) and Rebecca Krystyniak (CoSE) will work with project leaders from 18 institutions across three states over ten years in a project that represents a comprehensive response to President Obama’s call to address the crisis in the American education system.
  • While some groups are commissioned to study, and others to plan, still others come together around a challenge.  When it became evident that the demand for graduate education in the Twin Cities was growing and that we had outgrown the donated space that had allowed us to offer our MBA program in Maple Grove, deans Diana Lawson, David DeGroote and Kate Steffens suggested that we create a graduate center for the Twin Cities in the Maple Grove area.  Vice President Steve Ludwig listened to them, asked the hard questions and led the conversation to a conclusion.  Next week the SCSU Twin Cities Graduate Center will open off Bass Lake Road in Maple Grove.  Five flagship graduate programs will be made available to the growing market of Twin Cities metro professionals who want to earn graduate degrees. 

    A team of St. Cloud State people who came together around this opportunity made this happen.  This kind of collaboration is becoming common…. thankfully.
  • The work of other groups is harder to see because they are planning for something we hope never happens.  Another great example of on-campus collaboration occurred this past spring when our region turned up Minnesota’s first case of H1N1 flu in Cold Spring.  Within hours Health Services Director Corie Beckerman and physician Dr. Brent Nielsen mobilized and formed a broad-based committee of leaders from across campus.  This team continues to adjust plans that will protect our campus in the fall flu season that lies ahead.

The Challenges Ahead

In the year ahead we will face many challenges and we have much work to do together.  Many teams will continue the strategic action planning that we began in 2007.  One of our most significant challenges is the work that we will do to create a balanced budget for Fiscal Year 2011.  I know that we can do this well because together we cut $5.1 million from this year’s budget through open, transparent processes that earned confidence of the campus community.  In the coming year we will look at budgeting priorities, program effectiveness and business process efficiency.  We will restructure to be more effective; we will decide to stop doing some things so that we can do other, more important things.  To do this work we will use the consultation processes established in our agreements with all of the bargaining units that represent SCSU community members.

We are grateful for the work of our legislative delegation and the Governor’s allocation of federal stimulus dollars which are helping us develop strategic approaches to budgeting that will serve the University well into the future.

This work is important but just as important is the work we will do to build a sustainable culture that can continue to change and grow with each new challenge.  I know that we can do this because I have seen the capacity of our people. 

People in the community are still talking about an unusual example of customer service for a student – a story that played out over a period of four years.  When it was discovered that a 2001 graduate had overpaid his tuition by $5,000, attempts to contact him were thwarted by the fact that he’d changed his surname late in his college years and moved to California.  But four years later, an alert staff member saw a local newspaper item that tipped her off to the identity of the graduate and she tracked him down to reimburse his $5,000 overpayment.  Because of a caring individual who practiced good customer service, one satisfied graduate and members of his family have repeated this wonderful story multiple times.  But more importantly, this story causes all of us to ask if we have gone the extra mile to help our students achieve their dreams.
 
I know that we have the capacity to address our challenges because I have seen countless examples of people who care and who make a difference.  Collectively, we can do great things.  For example, our Faculty/Staff campaign giving was up 20% in dollars – up to a quarter of a million dollars – and up 14 percent in participation …. in a year when we each faced economic uncertainty.

Nevertheless, we have some habits as a community that sometimes do not support success.  We falter when we forget our purpose…. that is to educate students through our own example.  We need to strengthen our capacity to have difficult conversations and to take strength from our differences rather than allow them to divide us.
 
We can develop new habits that keep us focused on our mission and, when required, support healing and encourage forgiveness through intentional conversations that draw strength from all that is good about our community.  As we take these important steps, we will create a climate of common opportunity and build social capital as an institution.  We need to do this.  The work ahead will be hard and we will need the good will and talent of every member of our community in order to succeed.

I want to thank every one of you for your dedication and the work you are doing.  It is because of my confidence in our community that I have invited new leaders to join us in this work.  I would not have invited them to join us if I did not feel that we are poised on the brink of greatness. 

Please allow me to introduce two of our new leaders and give them a brief opportunity to greet you in their own words.

Provost Devinder Malhotra came to us from the University of Southern Maine, where he was dean of the College of Arts and Sciences for the last four years.  Prior to that, he had 15 years of leadership experience as a dean, associate dean and department chair in his academic field of economics.

Craig Wruck, our new vice president for university advancement, brings 33 years of experience in fundraising and engaging alumni to his position.  Most recently he served as senior vice president of development for the Hazelden Foundation in Minneapolis.  He is highly respected in the advancement field and is regarded nationally as a leader in the area of planned giving.

You will have an opportunity to greet them at a reception in Atwood immediately following this program, but right now I would like to offer them the opportunity to greet you. 

First, please welcome Provost Devinder Malhotra.

Devinder Malhotra remarks

Thank you Provost Malhotra.

I would like you now to hear from Vice President Wruck.

Craig Wruck remarks

Thank you all for coming this morning.  Have a great year, and may the wind be always at your back.