Spring 2014 Faculty and Staff Fall Convocation


A
ddress by President Earl H. Potter III

Good morning and welcome to spring semester convocation and a new year. 

As many of you realize, we have just heard our St. Cloud State song known as the “University Hymn.”  It’s played daily on the campus carillon and sung often at university functions.  The words to this familiar melody are just as majestic:  They speak of loyalty to thy fine tradition and students filled with fires of true ambition… of the search for knowledge here on oak-crowned banks by the river’s flowing waters.  Of noble pursuits and high ideals. 

Over the years the river has been an obvious metaphor for St. Cloud State as an institution where students, faculty and staff flow in and out, bringing progress and change to keep us relevant to our students and to our communities. 

Today we have with us our new Vice President for Finance and Administration, Tammy McGee, who you heard from earlier, and Monday we welcomed Amber Schultz, our new Assistant Provost for Undergraduate Student Recruitment and Transition Programs.  Both oversee offices that are essential to our university’s success in meeting the economic challenges we face and ensuring our ability to meet our goals while staying focused on student success.  Welcome, Tammy and Amber, and other new faculty and staff who have brought us knowledge, experience and ideas for moving our university forward.

They stand on the shoulders of a lot of other extraordinary people who have come and gone, teaching and serving, impacting our curriculum and our culture.  There is no other college or university just like ours.  We are unique because our history and our people are unique.  We will remain always an institution with a strong identity as a place where students succeed because for nearly a century and a half many dedicated faculty and staff have chosen to come to St. Cloud to contribute to the education of our students. 

It began in 1869, when our first 50 students enrolled in Minnesota’s third “normal” school.  The campus consisted of one building – the former Stearns House hotel located just south of the building we are in now. 

The 1869 St. Cloud Normal School catalog stated: “The object of this school is exclusively to train teachers for the common schools of this state.” 

St. Cloud Normal School was responding to the needs of 19th century students seeking an education and a profession.   The teachers we educated were just what the new State of Minnesota needed at the time.  We have been responding ever since with the same spirit of innovation and sense of responsibility to the needs of our communities, our institutions, our businesses and, most of all, our students. 

The details of our mission may have been altered over the years, but its essence has remained constant:  Prepare students to succeed in work and in life.

I’d like to take a few minutes to point out some snippets of campus history that remind us how our evolution as an institution has paralleled the changes in our world around us:

The St. Cloud Normal School’s first commencement in 1871 was in the Congregational Church on Fifth Avenue.   Oral exams preceded a commencement program of music and essays prepared by the graduates – 13 women and two men all from Minnesota and most from the St. Cloud area.  Two of their earlier classmates had been expelled – a male for entering a pool hall and a female for opting one Sunday morning to take a carriage ride with a young man instead of attending church.

Over the years, graduation ceremonies – like our student, faculty and staff population – have become increasingly large and diverse. By the end of the 19th century, the student body had grown to 283 and the faculty had grown to 19.  By comparison, last spring we graduated 1235 undergraduate and 297 graduate students.

By 1944 St. Cloud State Teachers College had graduated 11,890 students.  Nearly all had become teachers in Minnesota. 

But the end of World War II and the G.I. Bill brought new demands and the realization we must meet the needs of the veterans streaming into St. Cloud State.  During the war enrollment had dropped to 400 students – 90 percent women.  By fall 1946 enrollment was 1,107, and within another year for the first time more than 1,000 men were enrolled.

Many had families, and the college responded with the acquisition of federal government war surplus housing units set up near Selke Field as 48 apartments for married students and their families. 

Veterans led the demand for a more diversified curriculum, and we went from being “just a teachers college” to a college with pre-professional curriculums added to offer bachelor’s degrees in a non-teaching program.  Along with the college guidance center, St. Cloud State responded with resources to help the adjustment from military to civilian life – just as the university is responding today with resources and guidance for our 700 student veterans and guard members.  Our university has repeatedly been named a military-friendly school by G. I. Jobs magazine.  And that is an achievement we will continue to celebrate and build on.

In 1957 we were officially St. Cloud State College to reflect the growth in academic program offerings. By the 1970s the faculty numbered more than 500 in five schools and a number of graduate programs were being offered.

In 1975 we became what we are now:  St. Cloud State University.  While our education programs have gone from an on-campus lab school to an award-winning model for teacher preparation since the 1900s, we have continued to grow and change academically and culturally along with our state.  Most importantly, we have become a richly diverse and global campus community in recent decades.

These science students in 1897 had their rudimentary microscopes – Today in ISELF they have their atomic force microscope and scanning electron microscope.

These students in the mid 20th century got their mail in a bank of campus mailboxes in Stewart Hall, newly opened in 1950.  Smart phones and social media – now indispensable to most students -- were unthinkable.  As a university we have been responsive to the changing communication habits of our prospective students and other constituencies and have been ahead of the curve in using these significant tools to tell our story.  St. Cloud State is in the forefront of Minnesota’s higher education social media conversation. Our flagship Twitter feed was the first in MnSCU to gain 6,000 followers.  Our flagship Facebook page has 20,000 followers, 10,000 more than any other MnSCU school. On our busiest day last semester, more than 35,000 unique users saw content associated with facebook.com/stcloudstate.

Last year, 3.76 million unique visitors viewed more than 18.5 million pages on our website.

Students lived in homey residence halls with dining rooms made for good manners and socializing.  And like today, the library was a gathering place for study and projects.  We have seen sweeping progression also in our student union.

Students who were lobbying to get a college student union on campus placed this outhouse in front of Stewart Hall in 1957 – with the sign “STC student union” to make their point.   Nine years later Atwood – the living room of the campus – opened.  The student center has since been expanded and improved with additions and renovations that have given our widely diverse student organizations more efficient space and all in our campus community more comfortable, welcoming places to gather.     

From Normal School days, women’s and men’s athletics have been an important part of college life.  This 1900 football team was more successful than the 1895 team who lost both games in a two-game season.  And think how proud they would be of today’s student athletes who have been so incredibly successful.

College hockey was played outdoors until the city built an ice arena in 1973.  When the National Hockey Center was built in 1988 it was a major boost for the program, and now we have stepped into a new era with our expanded Herb Brooks National Hockey Center. 

Through the years the campus kept on growing along the river.  Eastman Hall was opened as the school’s new gym in 1930 and students crowded the gym floor during frequent dances in the swing era.

In the 2014 legislative session we will be asking for planning funds to renovate Eastman into a facility supporting academic and service health-related programs.  Our area legislators have been extremely supportive.  Special thanks to Health Services Director Corie Beckermann, School of Health and Human Services Dean Monica Devers, and Facilities Management Interim Director John Frischmann for telling our Eastman story so well.

It’s fun to look at these old photographs and see how far we’ve come in our constant quest to remain relevant to the needs of students in every aspect of their education.  They’re also a good reminder that we’re part of a continuum, and 145 years from now faculty and staff will be laughing at photos from the campus of 2014. 

Change is inevitable, change is essential and change is good.  Change also is challenging.  Many of us are reticent to accept the results of new approaches to our way of doing business.  And yet, when we implement changes, many are impatient to see results.

For example, some have been critical of the pace of getting our new Integrated Science and Engineering Laboratory Facility to a point where it is fully functioning.  By design this is a facility poised to revamp our approaches to teaching STEM-related programs and to greatly enhance the medical and biotechnology economies of our region.  Many of the rooms in ISELF are filled with equipment and technology for teaching and research that go far beyond anything this campus has seen.  These are not classrooms that are ready to set desks in and turn the light on the day the paint is dried.  These are flexible spaces built for revolutionary partnerships and interdisciplinary scholarly work that has begun and will continue to set us apart as science educators.  

As our university has evolved academically and culturally, we are being challenged by our many constituencies to be a university that looks ahead to the future and to be an institution that is responsive to the changes around us. 

We also are part of a state system that recently announced a rollout of its new “Charting the Future for a Prosperous Minnesota” campaign.  The 19-year-old MnSCU system serves more than 430,000 students, and its mission is to provide an opportunity for all Minnesotans to create a better future for themselves, for their families, and for their communities.  Not so far from our own mission to prepare our students for life, work and citizenship in the twenty-first century.

“Charting the Future” – created by broad representation from among the 31 state colleges and universities – contains recommendations to increase access, affordability, excellence, and service by forging deeper collaborations among our colleges and universities to maximize our collective strengths, resources, and the talents of our faculty and staff.   The goals include:

  • Dramatically increase the success of all learners, especially those in diverse populations traditionally underserved by higher education.
  • Develop a collaborative and coordinated academic planning process that advances affordability, transferability, and access to our programs and services across the state.
  • Certify student competencies and capabilities, expand pathways to accelerate degree completion through credit for prior learning, and foster the award of competency-based credit and degrees.
  • Expand the innovative use of technology to deliver high quality online courses, strengthen classroom instruction and student services, and provide more individualized learning and advising.
  • Work together under new models to be the preferred provider of comprehensive workplace solutions through programs and services that build employee skills and solve real-world problems for communities and businesses across the state.
  • Redesign our financial and administrative models to reward collaboration, drive efficiencies, and strengthen our ability to provide access to an extraordinary education for all Minnesotans.

Please know that there is no drive to centralize functions or grow the system office.  If that were the case, I would be its chief critic.

Chancellor Steven Rosenstone will be making an initial report to the Board of Trustees this month detailing next steps and proposing a framework to move forward with the most important and/or achievable recommendations. I encourage all of you to engage in this important discussion.  Our goal as a system and an institution should not be to enroll as many students as possible, but to graduate as many students as possible. Given financial realities, we must balance the need for efficiencies with a focus on effectiveness and student success.
 

As I said earlier, this university has forged its own rich heritage and its own identity.  Our individuality will not be compromised by a system proposal aimed at serving students and serving our state. 

We need not be threatened by plans to make it easier for all deserving students to achieve their educational goals.  Transfer students make up a large portion of our student body.  We had 1,300 new transfer students this fall.  And many of our graduate success stories involve students who began their education in community colleges.

A good example is Alfredo Oliveira, a student originally from Brazil who currently is enrolled part time at St. Cloud Technical and Community College and also enrolled at St. Cloud State to pursue a bachelor's degree in Political Science and a minor in International Relations.  He will graduate in May 2014.  Among other activities, Alfredo is a peer mentor and community advisor at St. Cloud State, as well as a peer academic advisor in the Honors office.  He served an intern for U.S. Senator Al Franken and is a member of the MnSCU Board of Trustees.  He is charting his own successful future with plans to earn a J.D. and a Master of Science in College Counseling and Student Development.

It is imperative that we as a university community work together to keep our institution moving in the right direction with flexible enrollment opportunities and sustainable programs and services that keep the focus on student success.

We will continue our commitment to giving all our students an education that supports and encourages active and applied learning, community engagement, global and cultural understanding and sustainability.  In past convocation addresses I have provided considerable information about the first three learning commitments.  Today I am inviting John Frischmann, interim director of Facilities Management and facilities construction coordinator, to share some of the exciting plans he has been working on to decrease our carbon footprint by increasing our  sustainability efforts.  Please welcome John Frischmann.

 

SECTION ON SUSTAINABILITY

And now it is my great pleasure to introduce director Matthew Ferrell and members of the Concert Choir who will end our convocation with the University Hymn.  But first, they will honor us with a presentation of two South African songs they learned during their study-abroad trip last spring to Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University and shared with a grateful campus community at our tribute to the late Nelson Mandela last month. 

 

CHOIR

 Thank you all for coming and have a rewarding and meaningful spring semester.