by SARAH SQUIRES
After nearly four years at her post, Minnesota State College Southeast President Dorothy Duran has announced she will step down, effective on January 8, 2018.
“While I’m saddened to be leaving this wonderful college, I am optimistic about the future of Minnesota State College Southeast,” she said in a statement.
Duran hailed several advancements made by the college in recent years, including being named a “Beyond Yellow Ribbon” organization, accreditation for its practical nursing program, and its transition to a community college that allows a smooth transfer to four-year institutions. However, the resignation has also come on the heels of several challenges, including persistent declining and stagnant enrollment and the decision to end its two-year nursing program after the students in the program failed to pass the Minnesota Board of Nursing exams at the required 75-percent rate.
Longtime state Representative Gene Pelowski, who has long been a member of the state’s higher education committee, said the college’s “focus has slipped away” from its most important work in recent years, adding that the transition to a community college was a mistake for an institution with the primary mission of supplying employees for the region’s workforce. “I did speak with the [Minnesota State] chancellor this week, before the announcement [of Duran’s resignation] was made, and this does not come as a surprise,” he said. He said he felt her “skill set did not meet the demands of [Minnesota State College Southeast],” and that the loss of the school’s two-year nursing program was an enormous challenge for health care employers in the region. “That’s a huge blow, and there have to be consequences to that, severe consequences,” he said.
Pelowski said he felt that Minnesota State should focus on finding quality internal administrators to lead its institutions, rather than spending money on recruiting firms going forward, mentioning that Rochester Community and Technical College also lost its president following a similar external search. “This is going to be another search, another search at $150,000 probably,” he said. “Certainly inside the system, there has to be people who are qualified to take these positions. These searches have provided a litany of poorly-suited presidents … so I think the system has to focus on what’s good for Minnesota, what’s good for that particular college or university, and look inside.”
The college, he said, needs to focus on its successes — primarily, filling the workforce needs of area businesses.
Duran, who could not be reached for comment by press time, said in a statement that her decision to leave was made with “heartfelt regret,” and lauded the college’s employees for their commitment to students. “I believe Minnesota State College Southeast’s faculty and staff are incredibly talented individuals who each have shown ceaseless dedication to the success of our students and fulfillment of our mission,” she wrote. She said she has been honored to serve both the Winona and Red Wing campuses, and said there are many new initiatives in place, including “workforce-responsive academic programming,” that would carry the college into the future. “In addition, I believe the college’s success is, and will continue to be, a direct result of the support it receives from its inspiring students, its engaged business partners, and the supportive communities of Red Wing and Winona.