Southwest Minnesota State University started the year with an Interim President, one of the smallest freshmen classes in recent history and large budget cuts to the base funding due to legislated higher education cuts at the state level.
On July 1 a severe storm did over $750,000 in damage to the campus. Not a prescription for a good year! The University community rolled up its sleeves and with determination moved mountains to show the inner strength and determination to succeed. We set several goals.
First, we were determined to change the complexion of our recruiting process. While starting late we added new scholarship opportunities, we changed areas of emphasis for recruiting and worked to capture more of the graduates from area two-year colleges. By early summer (2012) we moved to a position of making our historical freshmen class size and hopefully by the first day of class will exceed the historical freshmen class size average.
Next, we identified areas in which we could serve our region better. Two key areas were in the health related fields and the major industry of our region, agriculture. The goal in agriculture has been to establish a School of Agriculture.
We saw this would take two steps, first to create a curriculum that would accept our regional two year college's Ag curriculums rather than losing these students to other institutions outside of the region and state. The second step would be to create a curriculum called Ag Solutions for students to enter as freshmen and finish a program that would graduate students that would be prepared to conquer the problems of the ag world of tomorrow. These two steps would complement the existing Agronomy and Agribusiness programs that exist to form a new School of Agriculture. The transfer Ag curriculum should be completed in the fall and the new School of Agriculture should be recruiting for the fall of 2013.
In the area of health we set a goal to establish an RN to BSN program. The faculty, staff, local health providers and our two year college partners began a process to develop and implement the new program. We have completed all the internal development, gained approval from MnSCU and have begun the process of hiring our first director of Nursing. We should accept our first class for the summer (2013) over the next eight months and a class for the next spring (2014) by next summer. As you read this please remember that this is a program for individuals who already have their RN.
An additional goal was to increase collaboration within our community. As things would happen we began a dialog with the school district about the possibility of partnering on the use of the old football stadium.
This dialog has led to an exciting partnership being developed in which rather than demolishing a valuable old asset we will transform it into the Marshall Regional Track and Field Complex for academic, athletic and community events.
This project completely complements the larger community vision of forming a complex to support the community designation by the state as a regional sports district.
As the year grew to a close I was asked how much did we have to cut this year. My answer was nothing.
The university community stayed on budget while taking risks to move us to a better tomorrow. Lots of others activities have exploded from this forward movementexpansion of Exercise Science program, Culinology program, College Now (record enrollment), new Masters of Coaching, added men's and women's cross country for fall 2012, new Center for Student Success, new interior lighting across campus through grants and zero-interest loans, project to replace seating in theater, etc.
It was a busy year leading us into what looks to be an even busy year in 2012-13. We hope you will visit us and be a part of our activities. The next year will see a search for the new President begin, I will take time in the next article to talk about the process and how the community will be involved.