I have been learning about this very special place. My data sources include discussions with multiple groups, responses to my initial stakeholder survey, and responses to earlier versions of this document.
Briefly, it seems to me that we provide an extraordinary education at a state university price, or, “affordable excellence.” To support this observation, I will discuss the following key characteristics of our university: student-centered, outstanding faculty and staff, excellent students, outstanding alumni, and caring community.
We treat students as individuals with different experiences and aspirations (for example, first generation college students, adults working full time and seeking to complete a degree, traditional aged students who need to work full time to afford college). Our tuition, which is among the most affordable in the region, and our instructional quality combine to create an outstanding higher education value. We help students succeed by providing strong academic experiences as well a full range of support services and social and community opportunities.
We provide multiple opportunities for students to enroll. We have the Corrick Center, which provides academic support services. In addition, we are fortunate to be members of the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities system, which provides additional opportunities for enrollment and transfer. Finally, we are part of the Tri-College University.
Through challenging programs and guidance from faculty and staff with high expectations, we help students to discover and then reach their potential. We provide opportunities for significant student research, leadership development, service learning, creative production, and athletic competition. Further, we have strong, cohesive curricula that prepare students not only to participate in the workforce of today but also to create and lead the workforce and society of tomorrow.
Our faculty members take exceptional pride in their teaching, and creative work. MSUM has more faculty members who have received prestigious awards and recognition than faculties at comparable universities. For example, we have had more Carnegie Foundation State Professors of the Year than any other higher education institution in Minnesota or in any neighboring state. Only fourteen campuses in the nation have as many.
Most of our classes are small enough for students to know their professors. Faculty members in many disciplines have had good success in securing competitive grants for research and creative activity. Finally, many of our faculty committees actively examine and work to continually improve all aspects of the teaching and learning experience.
Our staff members are similarly highly recognized for their service to the campus, our community, and our state. For example, one staff leader has had the distinction of winning two Chancellor’s awards, and many others have received top recognition in the state for their distinguished performance.
Like our faculty and staff, our students seem to achieve more recognition than those of comparable universities. For example, nine students have won prestigious, national Goldwater scholarships during the last eight years. Last year, our mass communications students received six national awards from the Society of Professional Journalists and two regional Emmys in as many years.
Our students expect to be challenged, and they rise to the occasion. For example, our students graduate with very high success rates in their chosen careers, as well high acceptance rates to graduate and professional schools.
Like our students, faculty, and staff, our alumni have achieved great heights. We have many CEOs and other executive leaders, K-12 teachers of the year, distinguished health care professionals, renowned writers, elected officials, non-profit and governmental professionals, and citizen leaders. Many of these individuals remain vital parts of our university through their ongoing participation and support.
Our faculty, staff, and students form a caring community. This is evident in how people treat each other as well as in the way our staff maintain our building and grounds.
It was very evident during the record 2009 Red River flood, when our faculty and staff members and thousands of students played a major role in the city and county’s flood fighting efforts. The system office took note and decided to move the November Leadership Council meeting from St. Paul to our campus to allow other presidents and emergency responders to learn from our experience.
Students, faculty, and staff work together to promote not only the health and wellbeing of community members but also their enrichment and that of the surrounding community. For example, our renowned Straw Hat Players draw sold out audiences; our students have completed thousands of hours of service learning in the community; our Small Business Development Center has provided consulting to more than 230 west central Minnesota businesses; our Fourth of July Celebration serves as the central celebration for Fargo- Moorhead and the surrounding area; and, our campus hosts a naturalization ceremony during Constitution Week.
Our campus welcomes and celebrates diversity and works actively to combat racism. Further, the campus and the surrounding community provide a safe, friendly, and convenient environment—a “small town” atmosphere with “metropolitan” amenities.
If we look at all of these attributes taken together, it seems to me that we provide an elite private education experience at a state university price. Clearly, we can all be very proud of MSUM. It is a very special place.
The ideas presented here represent a “work in progress” as we clarify our identity and our vision for the future. We welcome your feedback and input. Please send your comments to me at firstname.lastname@example.org. We will continue to revise the draft according to feedback and will post revisions throughout the semester.
To see more detailed information about the accomplishments of our students, faculty, staff, and alumni, visit http://web.mnstate.edu/pointsofpride/
Finally, I want to thank all the faculty, staff, students, alumni, and community members who work together to make MSUM a very special place. Thank you!
President Edna Mora Szymanski
The Special Nature of MSUM and Why We Can Be Very Proud
Overview and Request for Input
August 1, 2009