2011 Faculty & Staff Spring Convocation
Good morning and thank you for being here today … and every day. I hope each of you found opportunities in recent weeks to relax, reflect and reconnect with family and friends.
As we begin this new semester I want to take a moment to put the focus on you and recognize your genuine commitment to our students and our university, year in and year out. We would not be the fine institution that we are without your unique contributions to teaching, mentoring, inspiring and supporting students. Without you, we would not be making the extraordinary progress we are in our efforts to adapt and improve to meet the changing needs of our students and the world in which they live and work.
These adaptations and improvements have not come easily. We have stepped back as a campus community and talked honestly about the character of our institution and how we should build on its strong foundation. This foundation was built by the contributions of the many dedicated people before us who have served the State of Minnesota through their commitment to the mission of this University. The foundation that they built has served and continues to serve the University well. Yet, in a time when the fundamental value of what we do is being examined in a national debate and change is pressed upon us, we must change and change fast in order to protect our ability to honor the sacred trust that I believe we hold in our hands. This trust is no less than the future of our graduates and through them the future of the communities in which they will work and live. Thus, we have changed; with respect for our past and a commitment to our mission we have moved forward. Now we need to continue to change, something we cannot do without a campus community that steps up to engage in this exciting and daunting undertaking. You have stepped up and for all that you have done and are about to do, I thank you.
Before we talk in some detail about where we have been and where we are going, I want to turn your attention for a moment to the logo that has come to symbolize the objectives that drive our “re-purposing” and reorganization work.
The center focus is “IMAGINE SCSU,” a phrase that invites each of us to consider a vision for what we want our university to be. The words surrounding “IMAGINE SCSU” – student-centered, collaborative, innovative, relevant, connected, dynamic, intentional, and many others – are the kind of powerful descriptors that should define St. Cloud State. These are words that characterize successful organizations in the modern world. It is what we must be and how we should be known. Think about it. The opposite of these characteristics is: self-centered, competitive, satisfied with the status quo, irrelevant, disconnected, static and accidental. Such a place would not be a good place to work, not a place that engendered pride; nor would it be an institution that deserved public trust or investment. I am glad that you have chosen to work together to take St. Cloud State to the next level … to become innovative, adaptive, and relevant … a powerful agent of change in individual lives and, truly, in the world beyond our walls.
I know this work is hard. Change is hard. You know the world in which you have been living. You know your place in this world. You know how to earn the rewards that sustain you. In a new world, especially when you don’t yet see your place in that world … well, you might not be able to find your way. You might not succeed as you have. You might fail. That prospect is frightening. On the cusp of change, we need to trust in each other and in our own fundamental competence to find our way in the new order. This can be very hard to do after living for years in an institution which has changed slowly. I understand this. So, why seek out change when we know how hard and painful it is? Why let go of what has been in order to embrace an uncertain future? Well, the truth is that we have no choice but change. It’s not just the budget. It’s the call for greater accountability in public higher education. It’s demographic trends that will change the shape and character of our student body … new industries, familiar jobs and career paths disappearing, and a global economy that has changed the meaning of “a relevant education” …. all of these and a number other powerful forces pressing for change. But even more significant than the expectation of change itself, is the speed at which change must occur. The pace of change in the world is creating unprecedented urgency for higher education in general and for us in particular. Our university, any university must learn to change at the pace of change in the wider world in order to remain relevant and earn the trust of citizens who, despite declines in state funding, still pay for a good part of an SCSU education through their taxes.
So, if we must change, how do we do so without losing what is good about SCSU? How do we change our cost structures (managementese for cut budgets) without damaging the quality of an SCSU education? We must do so thoughtfully, well-grounded in our fundamental values, governed by proven guiding principles with all eyes on our mission. Among the principles that guide us are a commitment to diversity … to building an anti-racist culture, the commitment to honor the spirit embedded in the agreements we have with our bargaining units, a commitment to transparency, to openness and the facts of our circumstances. This is what we have been doing for years now. Formal strategic planning was launched three administrations ago in the mid -1990s. Three years ago, we began action planning within a solid strategic framework by asking every academic program to chart a course for its future. Through our collective work we then identified a number of institution-wide themes/challenges around which we created task forces to deepen our planning work. In AY 2010, based upon these efforts, we undertook a comprehensive program evaluation and in this year we have realigned our academic structures with our mission and our priorities. Next, we will complete the reorganization of the rest of University to achieve better alignment with our purpose and reduce costs. These results did not come cheap.
It’s estimated you participated in at least 1,400 hours of committee meetings, five planning retreats, two open forums and were responsible for a survey, a listening session and countless discussions during the appraisal, feedback and recommendation stages. The Strategic Planning Committee, Academic Reorganization and ASAOPSA Steering Groups collectively have had 46 meetings since last summer. We made this an engaging and open process that would bring about real, transformational change. We have begun well, but there is much more to do.
The current academic structure is an administrative structure that serves primarily as a support structure for independent departments. The departments in a college do not necessarily share a common focus and departments with related interests are not necessarily in the same college. The structure is generic and looks just like a great many other universities. It is difficult to focus and even harder for “outsiders” to understand.
Our new organizational structure includes two academic colleges instead of five – a College of Liberal Arts and a College of Science and Engineering – along with three free-standing schools – the Herberger Business School, School of Education, and School of Health and Human Services. The College of Liberal Arts also will include a School of the Arts, and the College of Science and Engineering a School of Engineering Computing and Environment.
The new structure brings together departments with shared interests in units that can be focused and nimble. The new structure, in fact, turns our world on its head by organizing around the markets we serve rather than around traditional disciplines. A purpose-driven organization structure results in a new prominence for our professional programs and a recognizable commitment to practical, applied learning that is built on a strong liberal arts foundation which results in graduates who are not trained for a job but educated for life-long learning.
This is our mission … to prepare our graduates for work and life in the 21st Century. Our mission is not open for debate. It is given to us by our (Minnesota State Colleges and Universities) Board and affirmed by the Legislature. How we live into this mission, what kind of institution we build to fulfill this charge must be the result of decisions we make together. We create our vision as the vehicle for fulfilling the mission that is given to us and we are the ones who define what it means to be prepared for life and work in the 21st Century. In the work we have done together over the last three years, we have identified both the essential features that an SCSU education should include and strategies for achieving critical skills and understandings. These are the four pillars of an SCSU education.
As I describe each of these four pillars, I will introduce an outstanding current student or group of students whose education at SCSU offers an example of one pillar. Each of these student leaders is living evidence of how SCSU prepares its graduates for life and work in the 21st century.
Our first pillar is Community Engagement –
Community engagement is both the means for developing essential skills and an objective that we have for our graduates…that each graduate should be prepared to be an engaged citizen and have the inclination to be engaged. Meet Kent Koch, a senior finance major who recently was elected mayor of his hometown of Loretto, Minnesota. This month he will take office as leader of the community he loves and the city in which he has worked for seven years. Kent is building his skills as a leader at SCSU by serving as a captain on the Husky baseball team and continuing his service on the Student Athlete Advisory Council. He will graduate this spring with a degree in finance and a wealth of practical experience in leadership derived from the opportunities he chose from among a host of engagement options available to SCSU students. We have not yet achieved our full potential for engagement but I want you to be the first to know that we have recognized for our commitment and our progress.
Our second pillar is Active Learning -
Active Learning is many things. It is service learning, of course, but also engagement with faculty in research, producing works of art for performances and shows as well as internships and practicum experiences. Every one of our students must have the opportunity to put classroom learning into practice. Many of you already are familiar with the representative student leader who has put classroom learning into action and gained practical experience that reinforces her education. Amanda Bardonner, a junior international business and marketing major from Wausau, Wisconsin, has been an outstanding Student Government president during a time of unprecedented challenges. With extraordinary aplomb, she fielded questions this fall about the students’ role in supporting athletics and initiated the ultimately successful referendum to increase student fees to – as some put it – save football. The process resulted in a record student voter turnout. Under Amanda’s leadership, student government also has launched an Ad Hoc Committee on Student Safety to consider ways to deal with the proliferation of crime in south side neighborhoods and supported efforts to build better relationships between students and the community.
The third pillar is Sustainability in its broadest sense
Sustainability is a concept that embraces more than our physical environment. In its broadest sense it also includes social justice practices that reduce, we would hope eliminate the waste of human potential. I have signed “the American Colleges and University Presidents’ Climate Commitment. This is a commitment to live as an institution in a sustainable fashion, a commitment that is essential if we are to teach sustainability to our students. Four senior technology management majors exemplify outstanding accomplishments in this important aspect of education for the 21st century. In a senior project for their environmental technology class, they elected to work with the St. Cloud State University Community Garden folks, who asked them to create an irrigation plan that would accommodate needs of the garden, be easy to operate and use collected rain water as the main water supply. They created a design for an expanded garden and creation of an irrigation center where the equipment to run it will be placed. The impact of this project on student environmentalists Joe Vos of St. Cloud, Nicholas Janssen of Marshall, Eric Olson of Ogilvie, and Michael Hicks of Litchfield goes beyond a classroom assignment. It is an experience that has had life-altering impact on four students whose careers and personal passion for tending the physical environment will continue to intersect. And they have left the Community Garden with the necessary tools to move forward with a sustainable irrigation project. Beyond the physical impact of their work, these students have also encountered the impact of the Garden on the development of social capital in our neighborhood and beyond through the modeling, teaching and networking among the many emerging garden sites in the region … and thus have experienced sustainability in its broadest sense.
The fourth pillar is Globalization –
It should now be self-evident that we live in a global community for which the “owner’s manual” is a work in progress. Understanding yourself and your own world in the context of this larger reality must be a central feature of a practical education for the 21st Century. Meet Shanika Perara, champion equestrian, outstanding marketing student, university Ambassador, and seasoned fundraiser for global causes. She represents the many students who are engaged in preparing for a career in a global community. In her first internship with Epicor Software, the Mahtomedi native sold $10 million in business software over the phone. She turned down offers of a full-time job to keep her options open, including a second successful internship with HealthPartners. But it was her work with the Minnesota Friendship Foundation that earned Shani the Minnesota Woman of Achievement Award. She was honored for fundraising efforts that led to the rebuilding of 50 homes in her parents’ home country of Sri Lanka after a devastating tsunami.
These four pillars are at the corners of a curriculum structure – think of it as a square tent if you will – whose center pole is an academically rigorous, integrated student experience that brings the components together in a coherent whole. This is the kind of experience from which all the students I have introduced you have benefited.
Now we will turn our attention to the way the rest of the University is organized to support the achievement of the objectives we have for our students To offer you more detail and a perspective on the changes ahead that is different from my own, I have invited three leaders who have been very involved in our successes to date to reflect on this progress and our next steps.
The first is Professor Judy Kilborn, co-chair of the Strategic Planning Committee who will talk about the restructuring of our academic framework; the next is Margaret Vos, co-chair of the Academic Support, Administrative & Operating Program & Service Appraisal (ASAOPSA) Steering Group, who will share some of the recommendations and plans for reorganization of academic support and service aspects of our university; and finally, Student Government President Amanda Bardonner will talk about the student perspective of reorganization. Thank you all for your leadership.
(Judy, Margaret and Amanda speak)
And now I am delighted to introduce yet another outstanding St. Cloud State student. If you attended the wonderful Celebrations of Community gala a few weeks ago you heard Junko Masuda’s piano performance that was part of the Wind Ensemble’s resounding “Rhapsody in Blue.” Junko is one of our more than 1,150 international students – a junior piano performance major from Toyota-city, Japan, and recipient of the Ruth Gant Piano Scholarship. Please join me in welcoming Junko to our stage and enjoying her performance of Etude opus 10 no. 4 in c-sharp minor by Frederic Chopin.
Thank you Junko, and thank you all for coming. This will be a challenging and exciting semester during which we will continue to change….with our eyes on our mission, guided by our commitment to evidence-based, fair and open processes and with a high degree of care for everyone whose life will be affected by the changes we make.
I want to point out one other way in which we’re changing, which is not in my script, but which I think needs to be said. We focused on the object of our work, the organization and the structure. But we are changing in the process.
It was Nietzsche, I believe, who said, “That which does not kill us makes us stronger.” And, we have developed capacity. I have to say that the quality of the conversations, the work we have done together, at the end of this term, was of a much higher quality than we began these conversations.
As a community we have grown, we have changed, we have developed our capacity. We've built strength for the next steps. And, while we are changing structures, while we're reorganizing, reshaping budgets, we are changing ourselves.
And that doesn’t happen without your willingness to allow yourself to participate in the change.
And for that, most of all, I thank you.
We will continue to draw on staff expertise to form a transitional team to manageimplementation of the different elements of reorganization. I have asked the Strategic Planning Committee – whose membership includes all the constituencies of our campus community – to oversee this process. The committee will continue to provide oversight and keep us apprised of progress in developing the mission and vision for our new academic units as well as guiding the development of detailed technical plans that include human resources planning, facilities planning and budgeting.
I appreciate your commitment to the work we are doing together. It is only with your thoughtful participation that this work can succeed. From the bottom of my heart, I say, “Thank you”.