Monthly Archives: September 2011

New leaders express a vision for higher education in Minnesota

This is a time of major leadership transitions in Minnesota higher education, and recent speeches by Steven Rosenstone, the new MnSCU chancellor and Eric Kaler, the new University of Minnesota president suggest their community engagement priorities.  Both emphasize workforce development as a contribution to strong communities, call for more collaboration across sectors, and aim to increase college access and success among diverse students.  

Excerpts from Steven Rosenstone’s first major speech to the MnSCU Board of Trustees on September 20, 2011 (See full text here.)

Steven Rosenstone

For more than 150 years, our colleges and universities have prepared Minnesota’s workforce; we have supplied skilled employees for new and growing companies; we have graduated entrepreneurs who have started businesses in every town of our state; and we have educated the Minnesotans who knit together the fabric of our communities – from teachers and social workers to police officers and nurses. That role cannot diminish in the face of current financial challenges . . .

Most people I’ve met give huge credit to our colleges and universities for the important role they play ensuring the vitality of communities across our state. People shared with me, in vivid detail, the kinds of partnerships with businesses and organizations that have been key to their community’s success, especially customized training and our willingness to pitch in and help solve local problems. . .

An extraordinary education means graduates who have the capacity to adapt to the four or more careers they are likely to have over their lifetimes; think independently and critically; resourcefully applying knowledge to new problems; and work effectively across cultural and geographic boundaries An extraordinary education enables student to achieve their objectives and prepares them to learn for a lifetime.

Consider some of the ideas currently on the table. We might . . .

  • Rethink the classroom experience to infuse every learning experience with project-based active learning.
  • Bring learning closer to the world of practice.
  • Develop thoughtful measures of learning outcomes and deliver programs that enable graduates to meet those standards.
  • Increase collaboration among faculty across our colleges and universities to create the best possible courses and share them across the system. Turn loose the best minds to develop the best courses. . . .

We need to redesign the way we do things. We need to empower our colleges and universities, our faculty and staff, to be innovative and entrepreneurial. We need to partner in new ways. . . .

We will have succeeded when every economic development initiative across Minnesota involves at least one of our colleges or universities; when all businesses and communities turn to us first for solutions to pressing problems; and when graduates return to us in greater numbers for the cutting-edge skills to remain at the top of their professions.

We will declare victory when every Minnesotan has the ability to attend – and graduate from – one of our colleges or universities, and when higher education is within reach of all families. And we’ll celebrate when the Minnesota economy returns us to prosperity. Given this defining moment in our state’s history, consider the ideas I’ve shared with you today as a call to action. For you, our board, to help us set the right priorities. For our presidents to lead new, innovative of serving students and their communities, and for faculty and staff to deliver both an extraordinary education and extraordinary ideas to our partners. Minnesota is counting on us.

Eric Kaler’s inaugural speech on September 22, 2011 (See full text here.)

Eric Kaler

I am committed to: Re-invigorating how we teach and learn, and ensuring an exceptional undergraduate experience, a rigorous graduate environment, and a world-class research enterprise;
I am committed to: Re-imagining how we operate and function;
I am committed to: Championing the value of this University to the people of this state;
I am committed to: Strengthening our business, community and philanthropic partnerships;
I am committed to: Unleashing an entrepreneurial spirit amongst all of us, reaching globally even as we serve and engage our local communities;
I am committed to: Leading a University that understands that diversity is critical to achieving excellence.

Together, we can re-invent the land-grant vision of the nineteenth century to meet the global needs of the twenty-first century. And together, we can place the University of Minnesota among the group of the best public research universities in this nation . . .

Let me turn now to public engagement, another activity critical to our mission. We always will respond to the changing needs of our communities, state and world by sharing our expertise, knowledge, resources and discoveries. We have a tradition of outreach to our rural communities that we will not abandon. Not only because we’re so directed by the Morrill Act of 1862, and not only because we continue to advance our legacy of agricultural innovation and feeding the world. No, we won’t abandon these roots because of students like Kenny Deutz.

Kenny grew up on his family’s farm near Marshall, Minnesota, tending crops and milking cows. Since he was a little boy he has wanted to be a veterinarian. Kenny came to the University of Minnesota to achieve that goal. A few months ago, right after his freshman year, Kenny was accepted into VetFast, an accelerated veterinarian degree program. Across the nation, there’s an acute shortage of large animal veterinarians. As the only veterinary college in the state, the University of Minnesota has an obligation to help meet this shortage.

VetFast students receive their bachelor of science and doctor of veterinary medicine degrees in seven years instead of eight. It saves a year’s tuition. It’s good for the economy. It allows young people like Kenny to give back to his community, and live the dream he first had in kindergarten.

While we’re committed to our roots, the fact is the world keeps getting smaller and, as Minnesotan Thomas Friedman says, flatter. We must rethink our mission of public engagement for the twenty-first century and create new pathways for engagement locally, nationally and globally….

We also need to look externally. We must better define our partnership with the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities system and more clearly articulate the public value and distinctive role of each institution, while working together as much as possible to deliver higher education in Minnesota as cost-effectively as possible . . .

Any great team, organization, or University, must actively pursue diversity. In our faculty … among our staff … and within our student body. I can think of no community, no challenge, no classroom that is not enhanced by diversity … of thought, of background, of language, of values, of religion, of gender, of ways of knowing.

Diversity pushes us to challenge our assumptions. It sparks our creativity, and it enables a richer and, frankly, more interesting life. A student who, by accident or by plan, has a narrow and homogeneous education will be spectacularly ill-equipped to succeed in a modern life.

Diversity is also an economic and civic imperative. By 2035 almost half of the citizens in the Twin Cities metro area will be people of color. Yet, today, our state has one of the nation’s largest achievement gaps between students of color and white students from kindergarten to twelfth grade, and that extends to a gap in higher education. We all bear responsibility. If we are to prosper in the future as a state, it is incumbent upon all of us to close this achievement gap. I will partner with our K-12 leaders and others and bring University expertise and resources to reach this goal. Education is the path to a better life. It always has been.

Understanding “Quality of Life”

After seeing Cornelia Butler Flora present at a Minnesota Rural Summit a number of years ago, I decided to look into her work in more detail. One of the things I found was a piece that she had written as Director of The North Central Regional Center for Rural Development. It was titled, “Quality of Life Versus Standard of Living,” and it presented a couple of ideas that I have found invaluable over the years when framing civic engagement conversations and strategies.

The first is that people often confuse these very different concepts: standard of living, and quality of life. Standard of living is essentially determined by how much stuff you can afford to buy. Quality of life, on the other hand, is sometimes more difficult to quantify or even articulate very easily.

My other big take away from the article was that quality of life, in all of its complexity can be measured both qualitatively and quantitatively. This is important to know because if money doesn’t buy happiness (or a high quality of life), then we should know how we might implement strategies to improve quality of life in the community and measure the impact of our actions.

Some of Flora’s more recent work has focused on the development of the Community Capitals framework, which facilitates planning for and measuring community or organizational change. Cultural capital, human capital, social capital, political capital, financial capital and built capital work together to sustain healthy ecosystems, economic security, and social well-being.  Our understanding of how these capitals inform and interact with one another is important if we are interested in holistic approaches to contributing to positive community change.

We are pleased to be co-hosting a webinar featuring Dr. Flora on Tuesday, September 27, titled, “Using the Community Capitals Framework to Understand and Measure Community Impact.”  We hope you will join us and begin to look at new ways to understand how your partnerships can contribute in meaningful ways to healthy, vibrant communities.

John Hamerlinck

Student Profile: Thu Trang Tran, College of Saint Benedict/Saint John’s University, Jackson Fellow

Thu Trang Tran

Through the College of Saint Benedict Jackson Fellows Program, I am interning with Girl Scouts of Minnesota and Wisconsin Lakes and Pines. Our organization works to provide girls with meaningful leadership experiences that help them reach their top potentials. I mainly assist in the Fund Development and Communication Department and also take part in programming for out-reach Girl Scouts.  Being part of the program is tremendously rewarding. This is a great opportunity for me to get some hands-on work and to gain a big picture of what it means to work for a non-profit organization. Every day I witness real people working ten hours a day, five days a week to provide girls with great resources and encouragement they need in order to succeed. Learning not only the burn-outs that these people face, but also the difference they make in the community, I am inspired to be one of them. Had it not been for the Jackson Fellows Program, I would not have had this perspective and motivation to contribute even more to the common good.

This fellowship serves as a great preparation for my future career. Since I am an accounting major, it was hard to imagine myself working in the non-profit sector, but the fellowship has opened my eyes to many possibilities. I learned that the skills set that I obtained from my major is handy when it comes to financial planning and operation budgeting in a non-profit organization. The internship I have at Girl Scouts also compliments my accounting background and makes me more diverse.

It was also a great chance to attend our bi-monthly workshops. Being able to network with the guest speakers, listening to their stories and sharing good conversations with the other fellows were extremely helpful. I appreciate the diversity in topics that we have had at these workshops as well as the practical skills we have learned.

For me, civic engagement used to be a fairly vague term. I thought it meant something very political, big-scaled and by no means concrete. Throughout the time working at Girl Scouts, I realized that civic engagement itself can come in so many shapes and colors. It can be something other Jackson Fellows have been working with such as human rights advocacy, mental courts, legal services, etc, but it can be something very personable yet equally meaningful such as Girl Scouts, the Children’s Museum or Lyric Arts Theater. Interning at different sites, we all have an intentional purpose: to educate ourselves about the community and to serve the society we live in. That is civic engagement!

Click here to learn more about the Jackson Fellows.

Rules for etiquette in a democracy

MNCC board chair, Augsburg College president Paul Pribbenow, recently highlighted Stephen L. Carter’s proposed rules for etiquette in a democracy, which  include:

  •     Our duty to be civil toward others does not depend on whether we like them or not.
  •     Civility requires that we sacrifice for strangers, not just for people we happen to know.
  •     Civility has two parts: generosity, even when it is costly, and trust, even when there is risk.
  •     Civility creates not merely a negative duty not to do harm, but an affirmative duty to do good.
  •     We must come into the presence of our fellow humans with a sense of awe and gratitude.
  •     Civility requires that we listen to others with knowledge of the possibility that they are right and we are wrong.
  •     Civility requires that we express ourselves in ways that demonstrate our respect for others.
  •     Civility requires resistance to the dominance of social life by the values of the marketplace.
  •     Civility allows criticism of others, and sometimes even requires it, but the criticism should always be civil.

A good proposal to consider as we dive into a new school year, all sorts of community partnerships, and a contentious election season!   (For Paul’s full presentation, click on “Hospitality Is Not Enough” here.)

Carter’s rules appear in his book Civility:  Manners, Morals, and the Etiquette of Democracy.

What do you think?  Share comments and stories related to these rules and/or others you’d propose.