Office of the President

Fall 2017 Faculty and Staff Convocation

Fall 2017 Convocation

Opening remarks by Interim Provost Dan Gregory, Student Government Vice President Kayla Shelley and St. Cloud Mayor Dave Kleis.

Thank you Mayor Kleis, Dan and Kayla. Welcome back to the start of the 2017-18 academic year. I hope that you had a good summer and spent some time resting and relaxing with family and friends. An especially warm welcome to our new faculty and staff. You should know that you are joining an impressive group of people committed to positively transforming our students and the communities where they live and work.

I would like to welcome our special guests who are here – Interim Chancellor Devinder Malhotra; Mayor Dave Kleis; Minnesota House Ways and Means Chair, Representative Jim Knoblach and President of the Minnesota Senate and Senate Higher Education Chair, Senator Michelle Fischbach. Senator Jerry Relph and Representative Tama Theis send their regrets. As does Interim President Lori Kloos from SCTCC. Also in attendance we have representatives from the Greater St. Cloud Development Corporation; Initiative Foundation; CentraCare; Foundation Board and community members.

We also have Jorge Sosa Lopez, Dean, College of Engineering and Director, Center of Innovation & Design, at CETYS University (Mexico). Dr. Lopez will be spending time with us as part of his 2017-18 American Council of Education Fellowship. He chose SCSU because of our collaboration with CETYS and his interest in learning more about fostering innovation and design through the curriculum and other experiential experiences for students. Earlier this summer CETYS students studying for their Medical Manufacturing Master’s degree in Engineering and Innovation began taking St. Cloud State’s medical technology quality courses synchronously with students studying in the classroom in Plymouth. Dr. Lopez Bienvenido. Es un placer tenerlo aquí. If you have a midnight craving for a carne asada taco we have a 24-hour taco shop in St. Cloud now and it’s actually pretty good.

As I begin my second year as interim president, I have many people to thank for a successful 1st year. If I mention everyone by name we will be here all day. But I would like to acknowledge several people.

First to the campus community - for how we came together and continued steady progress during a time of tragedy and loss. I am so proud of the University for the way in which we honored President Potter and the grace with which we treated Christine and the Potter family while continuing our focus on serving students. I think that work is a fine reflection of who we are as a community.

Second to Mayor Dave Kleis – your support of the university and of me and your relentless focus on making the City of St. Cloud a great place to live, work and play, has enabled a deep and enduring town and gown relationship unlike any that I have seen across the country. I respect and cherish that partnership.

Third to the community – neighbors, alumni, donors, business, industry and non-profit partners, local school districts and SCTCC, thank you for all that you do in support of St. Cloud State University. It has been truly a pleasure to get to know you and I look forward to our continued engagement.

Fourth to our legislative partners – thank you for your support of a higher education budget that begins restoring the investment we need in order to serve the students and state of Minnesota. In particular your support of a bonding bill will allow us to complete the renovation of Eastman Hall into a cutting-edge space for delivering health services to students and providing experiential learning opportunities in the health sciences. The Eastman renovation is one of the most significant investments that the State of Minnesota has made in SCSU in our history. How fitting that we will be able to celebrate this accomplishment as part of our sesquicentennial celebrations in 2019. We are grateful and we can be flexible – in other words we would be happy to accept an even larger investment in the next biennium.

To the students – interacting with you has been the highlight of my year. I have learned so much about your aspirations, your challenges and your ability to persevere through adversity. I want to thank you for your engagement and your leadership. A special thank you to Student Government for your thoughtful feedback on banded tuition and the investment in the Student Success Collaborative this coming year. Your partnership in making these two strategic efforts a reality, positions us to make a real difference in moving the needle on Advancing the Success of our students, especially those that will be joining the SCSU community this fall.

Finally to my family and in particular to my spouse and partner – Nita – for your support throughout this first year. You cheerfully endured your first winter in Minnesota and you are still here! Today is our 31st wedding anniversary and when she asked me what I had planned, I said – well the day will begin with coffee with friends, followed by listening to me speak without interruption, and topped off by ice-cream. And all that before noon!

Earlier you saw a great montage of our collective efforts and successes this past year. We should be proud of those accomplishments. But many of you may not be aware of some of these amazing numbers:

  • 18,856 total students served
  • 159 Academic all-conference Huskies athletes
  • 4,040 website user edits
  • 10,000 lightbults replaced
  • 2,714 new Facebook followers (37,069 total)
  • 13,000 Student Health Services visits
  • 1,500-plus Family Weekend participants
  • 58 million-plus gallons of water used (14.6 percent reduction from FY16)
  • 29 million-plus kilowatt hours of electricity used (3 percent reduction from FY16)
  • 36 trees planted
  • 40 inches of showfall plowed
  • 1.7 million student volunteer hours
  • 155 home athletic events
  • 1.5 million Twitter impressions
  • 200-plus University Program Board events with more than 20,000 attendees
  • 3,790 donors in FY17
  • 13,738 ITS requests completed
  • 250-plus Career Center employer connections
  • 3,477 Public Safety escorts
  • 2,507 student scholarships with more than $5 million awarded total
  • 750-plus military-connected students
  • 11,570 craftsmen work orders
  • 200 cubic yards of flower bed mulch placed

By the way, we kept the number of parking citations off the list.

The Office of the President was busy this past year as well and here is a summary:

  • 466 tweets
  • 4,376 handshakes
  • 1,925 meetings
  • 51 trips to St. Paul
  • 1,463 signatures approving travel expenses, international agreements, vacation requests, delegation of authority, hiring freeze exceptions, emeriti status and tenure and promotion recommendations.

You know last year I think the campus misinterpreted my one-year paper anniversary gift suggestions. You actually just gave me more papers to sign!

Seriously though, the impressive list of your collective work goes well beyond the boundaries of our campus. Here is one more number to keep in mind:

During the 2016-17 academic year we awarded 3,099 degrees, credentials and certificates, a point I will return to later.

The last two years we have made significant strides laying the foundation for the long-term success of St. Cloud State University.

We completed and launched our new strategic plan – Building Minnesota’s 21st Century Engaged University – a bold but most appropriate vision for St. Cloud State. Our commitment to engagement – with our students, our communities and with each other – positions us to be a partner in the success of our students and our state. As a state university, we have an invaluable role in building the prosperity of our state and region. And our new strategic plan provides the blueprint for how we will attain that vision.

A key outcome of our new strategic plan is advancing student success. Our efforts last year to Reimagine the First Year of college led us on a journey to redesign gateway courses, develop a sense of belonging among our students, fashion a new approach to advising and create clear academic pathways for our students so they may discover a program that ignites their passion AND prepares them for career success – and to do so in four years.

Last spring, we moved forward with two key student success initiatives that will impact first year students this fall. The Student Success Collaborative combines technology, research, process improvement and predictive analytics to improve outcomes for all students and particularly those at risk for not reaching their goals. It does so by supporting three areas in particular:

  • Improving communications with and about our students.
  • Promoting the democratic, responsible and actionable use of data and predictive analytics.
  • Streamlining administrative tasks for faculty and staff.

As I mentioned before, the Student Success Collaborative would not have been possible without the partnership and investment by our students. Our students asked for this and it is critical that we answer their call by incorporating the Student Success Collaborative technology into our regular practices of advising and engaging with students. Please take advantage of the training opportunities available this week and reach out to Dr. Glenn Davis, our champion of this project, if you would like more information.

This fall, we also begin banded tuition for all new students. This is a significant change in our tuition model, which would not have been possible without the engagement of our students and the support of the Minnesota State system office and the Board of Trustees. We know that completing college in 4 years requires students to take15 credits or more each semester. Banded tuition supports full-time credit-taking behavior and is a significant step in moving our students along a path to on-time graduation.

These are important steps in our efforts to Advance the Success of all our students, and we should be proud of what we accomplished last year.

But I think we all must recognize that there is more work for all of us to do. And that we must confront the significant challenges that we face with a renewed sense of urgency.

I would like to focus our attention on a key challenge that we must address that I will argue is particularly relevant for SCSU.

Improving overall educational attainment rates beyond high school and in particular addressing racial disparities within those rates.

In this knowledge-based global economy, we know that individuals will need advanced learning beyond their high school diplomas to prepare them for good careers. For some, that may mean completing a professional certificate program. Others will go on to earn advanced degrees. We need to embrace and support students’ completion of advanced learning beyond high school as the new aspiring standard for public education.

As Minnesota’s 21st Century Engaged University we have a duty to serve the region and the State and to serve them well.

The 2015 Minnesota Legislature enacted a state postsecondary educational attainment goal: 70 percent of Minnesota adults (age 25 to 44) will have attained a postsecondary certificate or degree by 2025, both for the general population and by racial/ethnic subgroups.

It is 2017. How are we doing?

Minnesota is one of the most educated states in the country across all age groups – we rank 2nd only to Massachusetts – but we have severe disparities among racial and ethnic groups. According to the Minnesota Office of Higher Education, “the populations growing the fastest have historically not been adequately served within Minnesota’s educational system. The state’s changing demographic profile requires the State begin reducing these gaps or the State’s future economic prosperity will be imperiled.”

In 2015, 57.5 percent of Minnesotans age 25 to 44 attained a postsecondary certificate or higher. This is far short of the 2025 goal of 70 percent which indicates we have work to do to meet the goal for all students. But a deeper look at the data shows us that attainment rates vary by race and ethnicity from 23 percent for American Indian Minnesotans to 27 percent and 35 percent for Hispanic and black Minnesotans to 65 percent for white and Asian Minnesotans.

These racial and ethnic attainment rate gaps are equally severe across the country as well. But they are not acceptable anywhere and they should not be acceptable in a state that prides itself for being among the most educated in the country.

In order to meet the 2025 attainment goal, an additional 150,000 individuals will need to complete a postsecondary certificate, diploma, or degree. At the current rate of enrollment and completion, Minnesota will not meet this goal. Nor will we meet this goal if racial disparities remain the way they are, because students of color both enroll and complete their degrees or certificates less frequently than others.

The solution to this problem is not going to come from the elite institutions – the public research universities, the liberal arts colleges, the prestigious private universities, or even the ones that think that they are prestigious.

The solution rests with us. St. Cloud State University is not the most selective, nor the most highly-ranked, but we are the ones doing the most important work. We are a key strategic resource to the State if we are serious about moving the dial on college attainment and closing the attainment gap in this region and across Minnesota.

The path before us is crystal clear – in order for us to serve the region and the state of Minnesota, we need to recruit, retain and graduate more students with highly valued degrees, certificates, credentials, even badges.

Last spring in the open forum I said that this summer we would begin the work of developing a strategic enrollment management plan.

During the joint Strategic Planning Committee and Management Team retreat a few weeks ago, we spent most of our time discussing this issue. Our planning work focused on the fact that enrollment is everyone's responsibility on campus. Each faculty and staff member can and must play a role in the recruitment, retention and success of our students. We need clear action with widely understood enrollment goals, identified roles and responsibilities and a system where we support each other and hold each other accountable for delivering results.

We must control our enrollment destiny instead of letting the market determine it for us. And it starts with a crisp and clear enrollment vision for St. Cloud State University.

So I propose that in order to meet Minnesota’s target attainment rate for 2025, St. Cloud State University will aspire to double the number of highly valued degrees, credentials and certificates it awards from 3,099 to 6,198 annually.

This vision is strongly aligned with our Strategic Plan and stewards of place paradigm. It both highlights our role as an anchor institution that is an engine for economic, social and cultural growth and development and allows us to achieve our goal of building a sustainable university. Regional stewardship for SCSU is as important today as it was nearly 150 years ago when we were established as the 3rd Normal School by the State of Minnesota. It is and should remain at the core of what we do.

This vision means being the premier choice for, and serving students in the region and state by offering and awarding highly valued degrees, certificates and credentials, in a welcoming, inclusive and engaged environment that promotes the attributes of Our Husky Compact.

This vision means responding to those needs based on data and aligning both current and new programs to determine capacity.

This vision means having a consistent message about our value proposition – the student experience, who we are and what we stand for – and the courage to stick with that unified message across the institution.

This vision means maximizing our capacity in four locations – St. Cloud, Plymouth, Alnwick and online, including partnering with the two-year colleges and/or others as appropriate

So how are we to do this work when SCSU has faced declining entering first-year numbers, stagnant new transfer students and only modest growth in international graduate students, and with inconsistent retention and completion across all student cohorts?

While we may have attributed those declines to changing demographics and a strong post-recession recovery, we also know it is because of uneven recruitment and yield efforts, inconsistent marketing, communications and outreach, a varying on-campus student experience and a lack of data-informed interventions that lead to effective academic and social support for students. We also know it is because our programs have not always been responsive to the changing needs of our students and employers and in some areas we have become less competitive for students over time.

Our 2025 Strategic Enrollment Management plan, which will be completed this semester, will address the factors that have impacted our overall enrollment. But we cannot wait for the plan to be completed before taking action. We must act now and with urgency on specific tactics that will allow us to meet and exceed our fall 2018 recruitment and retention goals.

We need to create markers along the way to ensure we are making steady progress towards our 2025 enrollment goals. This starts with setting recruitment and retention goals for fall 2018. These include the following:

  • An increase in New Entering First-Year students – we will add an additional 110 new students, from our actual fall 2017 NEF number.
  • An increase in New Entering Transfer students – we will add an additional 30 new students, from our actual fall 2017 NET number.
  • An increase in New Entering Graduate students – we will add an additional 15 new students, from our actual fall 2017 NEG number.
  • A first-year retention increase of 2 percent, which represents 30 additional students that will continue beyond the first year compared to this year.

This means we would have nearly 185 more students at SCSU for fall 2018. This would not only represent more than $1.5 million in additional tuition revenue, but more importantly, would move us closer to doing our part to meeting the educational attainment goals for Minnesota.

The accomplishment of these goals will require the entire campus and indeed the community to come together and deliver on our promise to serve the region and the State of Minnesota.

This is a call to action. Reversing the decline in enrollment is our first and foremost challenge – and I want you to know that as your President I plan to own this challenge. This issue along with student safety is what keeps me up at night.

We must be our community’s first choice. Our academic programs, the faculty and staff who deliver and support our students, and value proposition must be second to none.

And while this call to action may seem overwhelming, I am asking all of you to personally own this call to action. Let us not think of enrollment declines as someone else’s issue but to consider every day how the actions you take and the choices you make, impact student success and new student enrollment.

Here is an example:

I recently received an email from the parents of one of our new students. “I just wanted to send you a short letter regarding the stellar work that Mr. John Brown SCSU Associate Director of Admissions did for our daughter and family. We cannot express enough both the care and understanding Mr. Brown has shown with our daughter's acceptance to SCSU. Thank you to Mr. Brown for making our daughters first few weeks as a “Pre-Husky” the best.”

Here’s another:

Justin Brickman graduated in May 2015 with a degree in Physical Education. While he was a student here he worked for Wells Fargo and the Minnesota National Guard and was also a student athletic trainer. He walked into the Career Center in his senior year stressed, because he had just completed his athletic training clinicals and realized he was no longer interested in that career field. He was hoping to learn about other jobs he could pursue while finishing his degree since he was so close to graduation. He became energized and excited to learn that there was so much more that he could do with his Bachelor’s degree from SCSU along with leveraging skills he already had. With help from Associate Director Hailey Olson and Mary Soroko, Student Development Director in the Herberger Business School, he identified fields of interest he didn't know he had. Hailey also helped him identify what skills he was bringing to the table from previous life experiences. He received help with job specific mock interviews, creating and leveraging a LinkedIn profile and more. Today he is successfully employed with KIND as a field sales representative.

Here’s another:

During Summer Preview days last month Asst. Vice President for Admissions, Marketing and Recruitment Amber Schultz sent a message to the campus saying – “WOW, what can I say?! I am so excited and thankful for all the faculty, staff and students that came to Atwood this morning to welcome our prospective students! Your incredible interactions with our future students will have a positive impact on our enrollment- both an impact on our numbers but a larger impact on helping connect students to this great campus for their future success.”

And here’s one more:

One of our current students – who wishes to remain anonymous said this “I am writing this email to appreciate the office manager of the Computer Science department - Clifford Moran. I have been doing my internship down in Minneapolis so, I constantly had some questions for Cliff. I emailed him more then 20-30 times and he replied to each email within few minutes or early morning next day. He was very positive and tried his best to solve my confusion in each response which helped me a lot to get my work completed. I have never encountered such an amazing, patient and humble person who is so dedicated towards his job so I really thought he deserves an appreciation. Thank you!”

And by the way, have you noticed how beautiful the campus looks? Our talented grounds staff has worked all summer on making improvements, big and small, to make the St. Cloud State campus an inviting place to be. They even planted bushes with red stems that will still show off Husky Spirit Red in the midst of winter.

What these stories tell me is that it will take both individual and collective action to attain our 2018 goals and eventually fulfil our 2025 strategic enrollment goal of producing 6000+ graduates with degrees, credentials and certificates.

Our alumni success stories are second to none and whether you are an Allissa Dillman from Baudette, Minnesota, who because of her amazing education and mentorship here, went on to earn a Ph.D. in Neuroscience and now works at the National Institute of Health. Or you are a Mynul Khan who made it to St. Cloud State all the way from Dacca,

Bangladesh, and now runs Minneapolis-based Field Nation, which has been on Inc. magazine’s list of the 500 fastest-growing small companies in the U.S.

These stories are different but the theme is the same – we transform lives and communities. This is a fact and is also the best kept secret in Minnesota. That has to change. And we all have a role to play in changing it.

So my appeal to you is:

  1. Be unabashed ambassadors for SCSU wherever you go especially if it’s in schools, community colleges, places of work, hospitals, churches, even on vacation.
  2. Invite your family and friends to visit SCSU and attend – an athletics event, a cultural night, an alumni event, a speaker series – your engagement and pride will rub off on them and make a world of difference to our students. If I’m around, introduce me so I can say hello.
  3. Support and show up at Red & Black Days, A&R days, Campus Visit Days and more – meet and greet students. It was a great success this summer and we need to do this consistently.

Over the next several days, you will hear about opportunities to get directly involved in efforts to impact 2018 recruitment and retention. We also hope that you will contribute your own ideas for helping us reach our targets, and then put them into action.

Over the course of the semester, we will be launching a series of efforts to ensure we “Achieve our Fall 2018 Recruitment & Retention Goals” – which I see as the primary focus of our collective work this year. On the screen behind me are listed these efforts. Later this week we will share more details about these projects including information about how you can contribute your time and talents to these efforts. These efforts are:

  • Refine enrollment goals and key performance indicators – so we have a common understanding of how we will measure progress.
  • Redesign a holistic campus visit experience for prospective students – so we can put our best foot forward to welcome prospective and admitted students.
  • Launch our rebranding campaign – so we can more effectively and clearly tell our story to our stakeholders, especially prospective students, current students, alumni and friends and the community.
  • Expand flexible, responsive and personalized communication with new and continuing students through Hobson’s and Student Success Collaborative – so we create consistent and welcoming communications across the student’s life-cycle at SCSU.
  • Create “Huskies Serve” a pilot engagement and service orientation training program – so we enhance our ability to serve students and each other.
  • Redefine our Residential Life experience to align the engagement and learning opportunities within our dorms with the success outcomes we hope for our new and returning students.
  • Develop the 2025 SEM Plan for SCSU – so we have a clear road map to fulfil our enrollment vision.

I believe we can and will meet our 2018 targets as we work our way to meeting our 2025 goal if we take it on as our collective responsibility.

This work seems daunting but I am extremely optimistic about our ability to meet our goals – and about the future of St. Cloud State. I believe we are in the midst of a perfect storm of opportunity and emerging momentum from our collective work last year.

  • We are in the planning year for our 150th birthday.
  • We are ready to launch the quiet phase of our comprehensive campaign – the first in 20 years.
  • Our academic planning efforts continue to grow in sophistication. We are leveraging our strategic program portfolio framework to develop more highly valued and high demand degrees and credentials for Minnesota.
  • We continue to expand our footprint with the opening of our new Plymouth location and reinvigorating Alnwick as a third location for St. Cloud State.
  • Last year’s planning efforts around banded tuition and the Student Success Collaborative will go into full effect this fall with our new entering students.
  • And finally, an improving demographic picture for Minnesota creates opportunity to recruit new and additional students to St. Cloud State. The total number of high school graduates is projected to increase by about 5 percent between now and 2025.

This is a powerful list of accomplishments and opportunities. I can feel the energy that is swirling around St. Cloud State and among all of you. We have worked hard together this last year and that hard work will pay off as we begin to see the positive results of our efforts together.

So much has happened that it surprises me sometimes when I think that it was only a year ago that I stood in front of you for the first time as your president. That convocation address was emotional and invigorating for me. But apparently the thing most people remember was my Top Ten list. I’ve been asked many times if I was going to try that again.

So for the moment you’ve all been waiting for…

Live from Ritsche Auditorium on the beautiful grounds of the campus of St. Cloud State University,

Here are the Top 10 Things I have learned as Interim President

  1. There's no hidden drawer of money in the office of the President. (Believe me, I've looked.)
  2. For some reason, my tweets don't get the same reaction as other presidents.
  3. SCSU alumni are great to meet and they're very consistent. They invariably say two things: 1) “St. Cloud State made such a difference in my life,” and 2) "When are you bringing Homecoming back?"
  4. Shaking 1,500 hands and taking selfies at commencement is a joy and a privilege, but the occasional back-flip can almost cause a heart attack.
  5. I was prepared for dealing with budgets, personnel and community outreach, but did not realize I would also be asked to show off my dance moves.
  6. I have enjoyed meeting students for lunch in Garvey Commons, for “Donuts and Dialogue” and for “Pizza with the President.” But given my weight gain, we are switching to “Talks on the Treadmill.”
  7. It is a pleasure to watch our Huskies compete from the stands or the president's suite at football, hockey and other games. But I have to control my enthusiasm. I can’t say things like: "You @$% refs – that was no foul! Get your eyes checked!"
  8. It is important to show up for Union Meet & Confers – but for some reason people aren’t thrilled to see me as much anymore.
  9. Mayor Kleis and I have slightly different jobs but we have one thing in common – he pretends to listen to the City Council and I pretend to listen to the Cabinet.
  10. And the most important thing I've learned as interim president is: Be nice to everyone. You never know who'll come back to haunt you.

Someone asked me recently what surprised me the most about this past year and I told them that I was taken aback by the emotions I felt during and after the Jesse Dady tragedy. When Jesse went missing and throughout that week, I felt a sense of responsibility for someone I had never met. While we will always mourn the loss of students like Jesse whose lives are cut short due to unfortunate circumstances, we must also feel a personal and fierce sense of responsibility for each and every one of our students who chooses St. Cloud State to help them achieve their goals.

A renewed focus on college attainment for all our students with the help of the community writ large, will define us clearly as Minnesota’s 21st Century Engaged University. When people ask us what does St. Cloud State University stand for? What do we do? We must proudly say – we unleash human potential to serve and shape a better future for Minnesota and beyond.

Thank you for everything that you do and best wishes for a successful fall semester.