Presidential Inauguration

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MSUM Mission Statement

MSUM Identity

Points of Pride

A Special Place

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Dille Fund for Excellence

Strategic Planning and Budgeting

President's Remarks & Updates

Institutional Key Performance Indicators

Vision Task Force

University Reaccreditation 2007


Office Staff

President's Cabinet

Contact the President


MSU Moorhead
Office of the President
203 Owens Hall
1104 Seventh Ave. S.
Moorhead, MN 56563
(218) 477-2243


President’s Annual Report to the MSUM Alumni Foundation Board
April 16, 2010

In this annual report, I summarize some highlights and transitions. Then, I describe our budget context and current focus and direction with a presentation entitled, Fiscally Sustainable Good to Great in the New Normal, which will be presented next week to the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities Board of Trustees next week.

Highlights and Transitions

First, let me share just a few of the highlights that illustrate the excellence of this fine university.

  • Our Business School is now accredited by AACSB. Only 5% of business schools achieve this distinction.
  • Our faculty and staff take pride in inspiring students to excel in life. That pride is demonstrated by our 2009 scores on the National Survey of Student Engagement, which are the highest in composite engagement of any system institution. Further, our seniors rated us higher than state and regional comparison groups; which include U of M Twin Cities, UND, and NDSU; on three of the five major indicators: student-faculty interaction, active and collaborative learning, and supportive campus environment.
  • Once again, our students performed well in the national Goldwater scholarship competition with two honorable mentions: Tony Nguyen, Biochemistry/Biotech and Alex Freed, Physics. Our performance exceeded any other MnSCU institution as well as NDSU, UND, and Concordia.
  • Mass Communication students won their third regional Emmy in as many years for, their online magazine.

I could go on with highlights for some time. However, I refer you to our April 1 Strategic Plan Update at and to our publication, Exemplars of Excellence.

In my second year as president, I have concentrated on the personnel and structures we will need for the university to thrive in the post-recession new normal. Thus, some transitions are in process.

  • Academic Affairs VP, Bette Midgarden will return to the faculty in the Fall of 2011. Facilities and Administration VP, Dan Kirk will retire from state service in October. We thank them both for their service to the university.
  • A campus transition team is examining all organization structures and making recommendations for changes as needed.
  • Jean Hollaar, Assistant to the President for Budget and Planning, is serving as Interim VP for Finance and Administrative Services.
  • The Academic Affairs VP position will be replaced by a Provost and Senior Vice President of Academic Affairs, and the Student Affairs VP will report to the Provost. This will unify academic and student affairs in an effort to remove duplication and increase efficiency. The search is underway.
  • A position of Associate VP and Dean of Undergraduate Studies has been replaced by a new position, Dean of University College. The College will include the Corrick Center, the honors program, living learning communities, programs for undecided majors, and some other units providing academic services to undergraduates across the campus. The search is underway.
  • The search for a permanent dean for the College of Arts and Humanities is underway. In addition, with the impending retirement of Dean David Crockett, the search for the dean of the College of Business and Industry is now underway.
  • In order to facilitate improvement of our business processes, 19 of our staff have been trained as LEAN process facilitators. Projects are underway and improvements on the horizon.
  • We are looking at how office space is allocated and working to relocate some units to facilitate greater customer service as well as shared support services.

Fiscally Sustainable Good to Great in the New Normal
(from presentation by Szymanski and Jean Hollaar to the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities Board of Trustees on April 20, 2010.

Minnesota State University Moorhead (MSUM) is a comprehensive university consistently serving around 7,400 students in northwest MN. Many of our students come from families that are not well off; 85% receive some financial aid assistance; and many are working while attending school full time.

We see ourselves as an important component of the economic development of the state and region. To that end, we have worked hard to preserve access and affordability. Our undergraduate annual tuition this year was a relatively low $5,948.

Our faculty and staff take pride in inspiring students to excel in life. That pride is demonstrated by our 2009 scores on the National Survey of Student Engagement, which are the highest in composite engagement of any system institution.

In the following paragraphs, we describe our current budget situation and planning along with our approach to future planning through the following topics:
(a) situation and action in preparation for the FY 2010-2011 biennium,
(b) preparations for 2012,
(c) fiscal sustainability, and
(d) “good to great”.

Situation and Action in Preparation for the FY 2010 – 2011 Biennium
We closed a very significant budget gap by working together, and we did so without layoffs and with the loss of very few academic programs. Following is a summary of our budget challenge for the 2010 biennium and our solution.

  • Our budget gap coming into the biennium was $9.07M (~14% of our general fund budget). Part of the gap came from the recession-caused decrease in state funding. However, $4.95M was a structural deficit resulting from the combination of declining revenue and increasing fixed expenses, coupled with limited connections between resource allocation and revenue generation and weak fiscal controls.
  • We began regular meetings with bargaining unit leaders and frequent campus town hall meetings to help our community understand the changing budget picture and engage them in working to cut costs.
  • We initiated hiring restrictions, which remain in place, increased the relationship between revenue generation and resource allocation, and tightened fiscal controls.
  • With the involvement of our bargaining units, we completed a campus wide review of all academic, administrative, and support programs. The result was a phase out of 3 academic programs (an accelerated bachelor’s in nursing, a master’s in community counseling, and a master’s in public human services and health administration) and the consolidation of some support and administrative functions. Consolidation and reorganization is still underway, with LEAN process reengineering playing a role. At the same time, we continue to monitor all of our academic programs for both quality and cost recovery ratios in order to promote fiscal sustainability.
  • The bargaining units contributed $1.2M to the solution by settling for limited or no increases, and we are most grateful.
  • We used our one-time federal stimulus funds to buy down our base costs through early separation incentives and energy refits. The current net decrease is $.6M for personnel costs and $.2M for energy costs. We expect continued decrease of energy costs with possible additional decreases in personnel costs.
  • We focused on increased revenue through increased credit generation. Specifically, we removed disincentives in our tuition and fee structure, enhanced our summer offerings, and strengthened our marketing and recruitment efforts. Thus far, we have seen significant increases in student credit generation and thus in revenue, both in the academic year and in the summer session.

Preparations for 2012
We began preparation for the 2012 biennium as we planned for 2010. Although the exact magnitude of our decreased appropriation will not be known for some time, we are planning for a decrease of over $3.5M.

To address this gap, we will continue to focus on increasing revenue and decreasing costs through

  • working collaboratively with bargaining units and students,
  • holding monthly town hall meetings and meetings with bargaining unit leaders,
  • using tight spending controls and strong relationships between resource allocation and revenue generation,
  • reengineering our business process for increased productivity and customer service through LEAN,
  • empowering employees while holding them accountable,
  • restructuring to promote increased efficiency and effectiveness,
  • and investing in increasing revenue (e.g., marketing, admissions recruiting, summer session enhancement).

Given the challenges of the post-recession new normal, we believe that we must plan long term strategies to assure that the campus endures and prospers in the face of decreasing state support and increasing competition for students and resources. To that end, our actions are guided by two major themes, fiscal sustainability and moving from “good to great”.

Fiscal Sustainability
Put simply, sustainability is long term viability or endurance. Burnside (2009), in his handbook, Fiscal Sustainability in Theory and Practice, noted that “one role of fiscal sustainability analysis is to provide some indication as to whether or not a particular policy mix is sustainable” (p. 11). Following are some of our recent initiatives designed to increase fiscal sustainability through improved policies and practices.

  • We have tightened our budgeting policies and processes to be more conservative in estimation of revenue and expenses, thus lessening the probability of structural deficits.
  • We have initiated policies and processes to better connect resource allocation to revenue generation. For example, departmental cost recovery ratios are computed annually. Departments with relatively low cost recovery ratios are examined by the Academic Affairs Budget Advisory Committee and required to demonstrate improvement or face possible cuts. In addition, cost recovery ratios will be one of the factors considered in the prioritization of requests for resource allocation when funds become available. Put simply, where possible and consistent with our mission, we work to allocate our resources in ways that preserve and increase our revenues.
  • We have increased both resources and accountability in the revenue producing areas of admissions, marketing, and the Alumni Foundation. It is still early, but we are gaining on those fronts and should see resultant increased revenue.
  • Finally, and in keeping with how we used federal stimulus funding, we use one-time funds (e.g., portions of carry over dollars) to either increase revenue or reduce ongoing expenses. For example, summer session advertising increases revenue; remodeling that collocates similar services decreases support needs; and energy refits decrease long term energy costs.

"Good to Great"
According to Collins (2005) in Good to Great in the Social Sectors,

Enduring great institutions practice the principle of Preserve the Core and Stimulate Progress, separating core values and fundamental purpose (which should never change) from mere operating practices, cultural norms and business strategies (which endlessly adapt to a changing world). (p. 26)

Key to Collins’s (2005) research on great organizations is what he refers to as the hedgehog concept, which he depicts as three intersecting circles that address:

1) what you are deeply passionate about,
2) what you can be the best in the world at, and
3) what best drives your economic engine. (p. 17)

Our new mission and vision statements, approved last year, clarify our core and address both the first and second aspects of the hedgehog concept. The mission captures our passion and our essence.

Minnesota State University Moorhead is a caring community promising all students the opportunity to discover their passions, the rigor to develop intellectually and the versatility to shape a changing world.

Marketing, enrollment management, and fundraising, which have improved significantly in the last year, build on our mission to drive our economic engine; and our new strategic plan, which is aligned with the System plan, provides direction through the following four initiatives:

  1. Offer competitive, high quality, rigorous academic programs and services that provide students the versatility to shape a changing world and support the state and regional economies.
  2. Increase enrollment and student success, including underrepresented students. The number of enrolled students should reach 8,000 within the next five years with continued improvements in student success indicators.
  3. Strengthen our relationships with key stakeholders, including alumni, other donors, neighborhood groups, and the business community.
  4. Continue to develop infrastructures that are sustainable through difficult economic times as well as consistent with the caring community that is MSUM.

Significant progress has already been made in all areas, as noted by our quarterly web update at

*Note that part of this presentation was excerpted from the MSUM March 25 Town Hall meeting (