2011 Faculty and Staff Fall Convocation

Streaming Video of 2011 Fall Convocation

Address by President Earl H. Potter III

Thank you, Devinder, for your leadership in rethinking our organizational structure and for introducing us to the New St. Cloud State University.  Special thanks also to the deans, associate deans and associate provosts who are continuing in or have stepped into new leadership roles.  And of course a warm welcome to the new guys –Dr. Osman Alawiye and Dr. Miguel Martinez-Saenz, who both joined our campus community July 1st, Dr. Alawiye as dean of the new School of Education and Dr. Martinez-Saenz as Associate Provost for Undergraduate Education and Student Success Services.  I am confident that we have the right leadership team to direct the units of the New University through the exciting transitions ahead.

I also want to add my personal thanks to every one of you who contributed to the sometimes daunting, sometimes exhilarating work of reorganization.  At times, as we navigated the process of change, it may have felt more like whitewater rafting than university business as usual….which indeed it was NOT!  But now that we’ve cleared the rapids, we have passed from the hard work of building the raft as we moved downstream to the exciting work of living into our future. In bringing the identity of St. Cloud State to life, we can more clearly see all of the great things that are going on here and get a glimpse of things to come.

As we begin the 2011 academic year, we can look around campus and still recognize the same buildings and see many of the same people who were here before.  But make no mistake…this is NOT the same university.  We are reshaped and refocused.  So much has changed, in fact, that we have a new story to tell.  

The language and images we have used to tell our story need to be refreshed and refocused to ensure that the traditions as well as the transitions that together comprise the new St. Cloud State are fully understood.  Much has changed, much has not.  We have been and will continue to be an excellent launching pad for lives as well as careers.

I am going to introduce you to two individuals whose stories exemplify how what we do at St. Cloud State dramatically changes lives.  They represent what’s best about our past and our future, and their stories will make you proud of what we have been to students and what we will be to even more students in the new St. Cloud State:

First meet John Baker – a 1999 political science and economics graduate who came to St. Cloud State after 22 years in the U.S. Marines.  I don’t think John would mind if I noted that he went into the Marines on the strong recommendation of a judge who was offering jail as an alternative to a bright but troubled young man. 

22 years later a more mature John Baker came to St. Cloud State, where he tapped his potential in an environment of challenging opportunities, mentoring professors and strong academic programs. He was active in Student Government and became a student director for the SCSU Survey.  He was among the outstanding students in 1999 to be recognized with an Excellence in Leadership Award and was graduated magna cum laude.

John credits his SCSU Survey professors – in particular the two he refers to as “The Steves” – Political Science Professors Steve Wagner and Steve Frank – with giving him the confidence to go on to law school and eventually start a unique law firm he runs with fellow Hamline Law School graduate Sharon Clark-Williams.  Sharon is also John’s wife as well as his partner.  What’s distinctive about the Baker-Williams law firm in Maplewood, Minnesota, is that it deals exclusively with meeting the needs of veterans in the criminal justice system. 

In 2009 U.S. Representative and fellow veteran Tim Walz asked John to start veterans’ treatment courts in Minnesota. He chaired the initiative to start the Yellow Ribbon Taskforce for Veterans Courts, and the first Minnesota Veterans Court opened on July 1st 2010, in Hennepin County.  A second opened later in the 8th Judicial District in west central Minnesota.

For his commitment to veteran’s issues John was selected by Minnesota Lawyer magazine as a 2010 Lawyer of the Year.

Today we are honored to have John and Sharon with us.  They will be meeting with members of our Veteran’s  Program Advisory Board and some of St. Cloud State’s 500-plus student veterans, as well as catching up with old friends and mentors like “the Steves”.  John, would you please stand and be recognized by a St. Cloud State community that is very proud of who you are and what you’ve accomplished.

And now I will introduce you to Amy Lindquist, a young woman who grew up in Spicer, Minnesota, and earned an undergraduate degree from Concordia College.  But it was coming to St. Cloud State for graduate studies in Teaching English as a Second Language that transformed her future.  Now she’s become what we believe to be St. Cloud State’s first Fulbright Student Scholar.  She will be teaching English and U.S. culture in Bourgas, Bulgaria, this year through a Fulbright assistantship.

But you don’t have to listen to me.  I’m going to let Amy tell you her story:

(Video featuring Amy Lindquist talking about what she gained from her St. Cloud State graduate studies followed by live conversation with Amy from Bulgaria)

Our thanks to Learning Resources staff members for managing our conversation with Amy through Adobe Connect. This resource for web conferencing is an institutional asset that opens new avenues for collaborative learning.  A University Communications graduate assistant edited the video shot at UTVS….a real team effort.

John Baker and Amy Lindquist are just two of the thousands of St. Cloud State graduates who have come to St. Cloud State to prepare for life, work and citizenship. 

As we have worked through the process of assessing the changing needs of our students, we have responded with a new structure that reflects a focused academic identity to ensure that we will continue to provide a relevant, rigorous and well-rounded education.  As a result, we are better prepared to meet the needs of the Johns and Amys who come to us eager to develop the knowledge, skills and understanding they will need to prosper in a changing world.

This is a fine institution that makes a difference in the lives of thousands of students every day.  Unfortunately, our reputation…our brand…..is not as good as we truly are.  We must do a better job of telling our story.  We have not been ready to do that.  We were unfocused and not sure of our way.  With all of the work that we have done in the last four years and the work that is now underway, we are ready now to transform our story to match the reality of a St. Cloud State education.

As some of you probably know, we have been working with Earthbound Media Group to create a new branding strategy.  This California firm has deep expertise in social media and a keen eye for the truth.  They are helping us to identify the words and images that will tell Minnesota and the world what makes St. Cloud State special.  Strategy, which comes before the development of specific marketing campaigns, serves as a decision making framework for every aspect of how we tell our story.  Thus, it is imperative that we get the strategy right before we begin craft the campaigns that will address each of our important audiences.

In their study of media and social media and through conversations with students, faculty and staff, alumni and community partners, the Earthbound folks discovered that we – especially students – are saying positive things about St. Cloud State.  And yet many refer to us as a “Quiet giant” – that we’re hiding our light under a basket, so to speak.  Even more concerning, they found that negative perceptions from many outsiders who control the “blogosphere” are not grounded in reality.  In their language, we have a “brand gap” -- a gap between perception and reality.

It’s been an enlightening process thus far and we are just hitting our stride as we move towards the execution of a plan.  We’re going to show you some of samples of the preliminary work on a new branding campaign for the new St. Cloud State University.  I’ve invited Damien Navarro, Chief Visionary Officer and Managing Partner at Earthbound, to join me to help show you what we are doing.

(Earthbound section – link to video presentation:  http://www.stcloudstate.edu/ucomm/branding)

Thank you, Damien.  This is exciting work that will help us harness the realities of the St. Cloud State experience and create a more accurate perception of who we are, where we are going and what we can do for our students.

This is a special time for St. Cloud State…a time like no other and a time to reintroduce St. Cloud State to the world. 
Let’s talk about some of the extraordinary things that are happening on our campus:

  • A lot of committed folks are working on an initiative we’ve named Celebrate!  In this effort we will take control of our image and set aside the damaging history of “Homecoming” which this effort will replace.  It’s a series of alumni, student and community events, activities and ways for us to celebrate our spirit and pride in St. Cloud State.  Teams of alumni, staff, community groups and students are working hard to bring crowds back to campus to spark new and renewed connections to the St. Cloud State experience.
  • The great things that are happening are many, too many to mention all but one particualry relevant effort is the Faculty Research Group on Immigrant Workers in Minnesota.  Initially sponsored by the College of Social Sciences, this interdisciplinary group is now co-sponsored by the College of Liberal Arts and the School of Public Affairs.  Its "Global Goes Local Conference" has become a signature SCSU event that gives stakeholders in Minnesota's new immigrant communities an opportunity to present on panels that involve research on issues that shaped their arrival and issues that they face as they struggle to secure substantive citizenship in the United States.  Last year's conference was co-sponsored by the U of MN's Immigration History Research Center and the United Way of Minnesota.  The conference and the project from which its stems are excellent examples of trans-dicipliary collaboration across departmental, as well as college/school lines, that we will see more of in coming years.  This is the kind of work that not only informs our teaching but has a tremendous impact on our surrounding communities by increasing understanding and awareness of important social issues.
  • In a number of cases our work is being recognized nationally as a best practice model.  The US Department of Education has just published a case study on our work with the surrounding community on decreasing abusive drinking.  These successes are leading to increased national support for important change initiatives at SCSU.  The most recent of these is a $300,000 grant from the federal Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration aimed at reducing suicides among students.  We will target at-risk groups and train students, staff and faculty to recognize the symptoms of students in distress and how to get them the help they need.  Unfortunately our campus has identified at least six student suicides in the past five years.  That’s a tragic statistic.  We will work together to keep that number from growing.    Thanks to John Eggers, director of counseling and psychological services, and Rob Reff, assistant dean of students for chemical health and outreach programming, for writing this grant and for all you will do to lead us in implementing it.
  • Of course, besides these collaborative efforts there are many outstanding faculty members whose leadership is being recognized.  One of these is Mumbi Mwangi, Associate Professor in Women's Studies, who has been invited to attend "The White House Community Leaders Briefing Series” this Friday.  Dr. Mwangi's expertise as a policy consultant is based upon training as a Policy Fellow at the Humphrey School of Public Policy at the University of Minnesota.  She also recently announced the birth of the new Journal of Global Gender Issues, a vehicle for publishing works that offer global perspectives in exploring gender issues.
  • And, of course, there is great change in our campus facilities.  Next Monday we will celebrate the rededication of North Shoemaker Hall with an opening ceremony even as we begin the renovations of Case-Hill Halls.   The renovations of Shoemaker were led by an Alexandria architectural firm and managed by a Rogers contracting firm in partnership the university departments of Residential Life and Facilities Management.  This $6.5M project which brought work to a dozen local subcontractors was a much-needed boost for the local economy.

These and many other great projects and initiatives are cause for celebration on our campus and in our community.  But I saved the most spectacular for the end:  This fall we will start construction on two projects that will be nothing short of game-changers for our University, our community and our state.

The first is the National Hockey and Event Center, with the $14 million first phase set for groundbreaking this year.  Not only will this project bring new elegance and functionality to the National Hockey Center, it will give the community a much-needed arena for concerts and major presentations. 

But the piece de resistance of course is ISELF – the Integrated Science and Engineering Laboratory Facility that will be the largest single construction project ever on our campus.  The $45M building will be the capstone for our science campus and fulfill our potential to be the Minnesota university that is the most important catalyst for science education and science-based business in our state.

ISELF will move St. Cloud State into the forefront of interdisciplinary education and the discovery of integrated solutions to complex practical problems.  As Dean David DeGroote puts it, ISELF is about people in the same physical space interacting and collaborating around projects that are cross-disciplinary.  That’s how work gets done in the real world.  And that’s the kind of environment we want for our students in the coming decades.

The facility also is a response to rising enrollment in 10 science, technology, engineering and mathematics majors. Those majors saw enrollments jump from 749 to 1,032 between fall 2006 and fall 2010.

From start to finish, the ISELF project received unwavering support from St. Cloud area legislators.  It also received substantial support from alumni such as Joel Goergen ’86, former chief scientist at Force 10 Networks in the Silicon Valley and business partners including Medtronic in Fridley and MicroBioLogics in St. Cloud.

Nothing underscores the scale and range of the changes that are happening on our campus better than these two landmark projects.  They represent community engagement, experiential learning and sustainability in their best sense.  They represent our future. 

This is going to be an exceptional year for St. Cloud State, and I wish you all the best as we move forward in a spirit of collaboration and pride in all we have done and all we will do for our students, our community and our world.