by Larry Lundblad, interim president, Minnesota State College SE
At Minnesota State College Southeast, summer is a busy time as we focus on admissions and registration for fall semester. A number of our career and technical programs are already full or will be shortly! Welding and practical nursing are filling quickly. The electronics, manufacturing, and CAD programs are experiencing their highest enrollments in five years. Two of the three musical instrument repair programs in Red Wing have waiting lists.
Over the last several months, the college has developed a new strategic plan that will take us through the year 2020. We identified five priorities — student success, regional engagement, workforce development, building the college community internally, and sustainability and growth. Now we are busy implementing the plan to achieve our goals.
As a result, the communities that we serve can expect to see many positive changes over the next several months. As a college we will be more efficient, effective, engaged, student-centered, and intentional in providing top-quality and relevant education offerings.
The success of our students is our number-one priority. It is our goal to provide our students with an outstanding academic experience and stellar support services that help them succeed. Our student services team has been visiting other state colleges and doing research to identify best practices and ways to streamline our operations. A gap analysis revealed barriers that are being remedied to make the student experience as streamlined as possible. A major initiative this year will be to greatly expand the use of technology to provide the levels of convenience and connectivity to our services that many students expect.
Keeping our trade and technical program curriculum current is always a challenge. We are committed to working with our advisory committees to ensure that we provide the most up-to-date education possible. As a result, exciting things are happening. We have completely redesigned the construction technology program to include the application of new technologies and sustainable building practices as part of the curriculum. Our electronics program is beginning the process of making substantial curricular changes. And our transportation programs are in the initial stages for revising and upgrading their program offerings. A new manufacturing program on the Red Wing campus — bicycle design and fabrication — is in the final stages of development for fall 2019.
These program upgrades are highly dependent on the purchase of new equipment. A capital campaign led by a community member is currently underway with over $400,000 raised in the last few weeks! This kind of support is greatly appreciated.
We are also strengthening our liberal arts and business offerings. New system transfer pathways have been added to our offerings. Students enrolled in the accounting, psychology, business, history, pre-social work, and exercise science transfer pathway degrees will take most or all of the required general-education credits and some of the credits in the major while at MSC Southeast. The degrees transfer directly into related programs at the seven Minnesota State universities.
Regional engagement/Workforce development
Partnerships are critical to address the current workforce shortage. We are pleased to be partnering with the local Chambers of Commerce, business and industry, k-12 partners, and workforce centers to promote high-skill, high-wage jobs in the trades and technical occupational areas.
An exciting development this past year is the establishment of career academies. These academies provide an opportunity for high school juniors and seniors to earn credentials that lead to employment upon graduation or further education. Two academies were launched in Winona — the Chamber REACH Academy at Winona Senior High School and a second academy at MSC Southeast that serves high school students from 12 regional school districts.
The expansion of opportunities for high school students will be supported by Minnesota Department of Labor grants that were recently awarded to Goodhue County Collaborative and the Winona Chamber’s REACH Initiative. These $95,000 grants support the development and implementation of experiential learning opportunities in high-growth, high-demand occupations through local business partnerships, and provide paid learning opportunities and related classroom instruction for students 16 and older. Stay tuned for many more exciting developments as these academies expand!
Like any business, the college needs to watch the bottom line. The drop in enrollment that has occurred over the past several years has resulted in a loss of tuition revenue and affected our state funding. Because of this, we will be aligning staffing with our revenues and enrollments. To address the shortfall, we are providing an early retirement incentive, not filling vacancies, and (as a last resort) reducing positions. Failure to make these adjustments will harm the institution long-term.
At the same time, we will be investing in new and existing programs and technologies that can streamline our operations and better serve our students. In the end, our students matter most and we must do all that we can to meet and exceed their expectations.
In conclusion, Minnesota State College Southeast is moving forward on many fronts. Meeting the needs of our students is our highest priority. Our next priority is connecting in meaningful ways with the communities and region that we serve.
A comprehensive community college offers many, many advantages, especially to the underserved, and provides pathways to the world of work and further education. We are a college that cares. Through the efforts of our great faculty and staff, we see lives that are changed for the better every day. The best is yet to come!