What does being named the first female president of SMSU mean to you?
Whenever one is the "first" (first woman; first to lead a new organizational structure; first in the family to go to college, etc) in a role, there can be extra pressure on the person. I have been the first in a couple of different positions and am confident that if we all work together on behalf of SMSU and the citizens of southwest Minnesota, the future will be bright.
What must SMSU do to attract southwest Minnesota students and keep them in-state as opposed to them leaving to further their education in another state?
All institutions face challenges in attracting and retaining students. Students have more choices now than in the past, and the competition among colleges and universities is keen. At SMSU we will build on the momentum that is under way and enhance academic programs and distinctiveness as we engage students in their educational experience in a meaningful way. It will be important to have relevant, high quality programs in an environment focused on student learning and success. We need to be a university of choice for students.
What are some of the biggest challenges higher education institutions face in the coming years and how can those challenges be overcome?
One major challenge is the funding of higher education. As state funding has declined over the years, budgets have shrunk and students have taken on a larger share of the burden. Students and families are concerned about rising costs and their level of indebtedness. Faculty and staff on campuses are expected to do more with less. We will be looking for efficiencies and for opportunities to partner with other institutions, business and industry to find creative ways to innovate and enhance academic offerings.
SMSU's Agronomy program was nearly cut by your predecessor. Where do you see this program in 10 years and how important is it to build the program?
It's a little early for me to be setting specific goals, but I am confident we will seek opportunities to build on the recent efforts to grow the agriculture program at SMSU. We will work closely with our partners in the two-year sector as well with those in business and industry to identify needs and find ways to meet those needs. If we work together, we can accomplish great things.
What are your thoughts on SMSU's relationship with Minnesota West and how can you foster that relationship?
Before I came to campus for my interview, I reached out to (Minn. West Community and Technical College) President (Richard) Shrubb, and we have been in contact since my appointment earlier this week. He is well regarded in the MnSCU system and will be a great resource and partner with us at SMSU. I am confident we will work together closely on behalf of the citizens of southwest Minnesota.
When you left Marshall after your interview what thoughts did you take with you about SMSU?
Each time I have visited I have been struck by the wonderful people doing remarkable things. There is a spirit of entrepreneurism and a "can do" attitude - the kind of place that feels like home to me (perhaps it has something to do with my having been raised in a town called Cando). SMSU is indeed a special place, and I look forward to moving to Marshall this summer.
What can SMSU do to strengthen its relationship with the community and the region?
I look forward to working closely with SMSU alumni, foundation members and friends to help build linkages between the community and the region. We will strengthen our ties to the area and we will intentionally reach out to the city, businesses and industry to ensure we are good neighbors and collaborators. A strong region benefits us all.
How do you, as a president of a university, plan to work with students to improve campus life at SMSU?
One of the benefits of serving as president at a small- to medium-sized institution is that I will get to know students. As much as we may think we know about the student experience, this is one area where the students are the experts: they live their experience. We will engage students in developing a vibrant and "meaningful" experience for students - an experience where they develop leadership skills and learn each step of the way. We will listen to students, work closely with them, and we will challenge them (and support them) as they reach new heights they never thought possible.
How will your Midwestern background serve you during your tenure at SMSU?
Being raised in the Midwest, I understand the value of hard work and the importance of being resourceful. Midwesterners are "get it done" kinds of people and they pitch in to help others in need. I have a strong work ethic, and I respect and appreciate the efforts of others. There is a healthy balance between independence and interdependence in the Midwest, which appeals to my sense of focus and my commitment to working with others in the region. I have great hopes for SMSU.
In what ways did serving as interim president at Winona State help prepare you fortaking the reins at SMSU?
Serving as interim president at Winona State University was an excellent experience for my new position at SMSU. I understand the role of president, and I have a good sense of what to expect. I have developed a strong network of other presidents and senior leaders to call upon if I need guidance, and in these same people, I have fellow collaborators and partners.
Compiled by Editor Per Peterson