As a high school student from La Crescent, Garrett Fields earned a certificate in prototype engineering in 2019.

National Science Foundation awards grant to MSC Southeast for advanced manufacturing education hub


Minnesota State College (MSC) Southeast has been awarded a $441,952 grant from the National Science Foundation. This grant, guaranteed for three years, will build on the success that MSC Southeast has already had in creating high school partnerships that provide college credits, credentials, and internships in advanced manufacturing to students throughout Southeast Minnesota.

Through the project, entitled “Establishing a Rural Advanced Manufacturing Education Hub in the Upper Mississippi River Basin,” MSC Southeast, regional K-12 schools, industry partners, and four-year universities will collaborate to develop a high school STEM academy hub model in Southeast Minnesota and nearby Western Wisconsin.

“This is an incredible opportunity for Minnesota State College Southeast to make an impact in our region,” said Larry Lundblad, interim president of MSC Southeast. “Hundreds of high school students will benefit from increased access to high technology education.”

Regional manufacturers will serve in an advisory capacity, and companies will provide work experience opportunities for participating students.

“Our corporate partners will benefit from a robust pathway from high school to their companies, and our communities will benefit from better integrated education and industry,” said MSC Southeast Dean of Trade and Technology Travis Thul.

“The hub model will help us give students hands-on exposure and college credit before they even graduate from high school,” noted Willie Lubahn, manufacturing trainer and recruiter at Fastenal Manufacturing in Winona. “We need a new generation of workers with high-level skills in robotics, mathematics, and computers. This will help create a pipeline from high school to industry.”

To date, MSC Southeast has partnered with nearly a dozen high schools within driving distance of the Winona campus — including Wabasha, La Crescent, Rushford, Caledonia, Winona and even into Wisconsin — to offer students in grades 10-12 the opportunity to complete a 13-credit certificate in prototype engineering, which students earn concurrently with their high school diploma.

In order to ensure that students who live beyond commuting distance to Winona have the same opportunities, MSC Southeast worked with high schools in Cannon Falls, Minn., and Chatfield, Minn., to develop the National Science Foundation grant, which will build technical hubs in their communities.

“Cannon Falls is so excited to be a part of such an amazing endeavor. It has been my dream for years to bring this opportunity to our students,” said superintendent Beth Giese.

Through the National Science Foundation grant:

• MSC Southeast will facilitate collegiate education, credits, and laboratory capabilities so that more students can participate in advanced manufacturing and STEM curriculum.

• Four modules of study will be developed: design fundamentals, CAD-CAM, machining, and CNC programming.

• All partner high school faculty members will have access to dedicated professional development, training, and networking opportunities.

• The college will coordinate training for technical educators throughout Southeast Minnesota and Western Wisconsin, including opportunities to connect with area industry.

• Winona State University (WSU) and MSC Southeast will partner to build transfer agreements so that students can earn Associate of Applied Science degrees at MSC Southeast and then transfer into directly related programs at WSU as college juniors.

“A smooth pathway like this allows students to set a long-term vision while gaining world-class credentials along the way,” said Thul. “After high school, students can choose to enter the workforce, continue their educations, or split the difference and work while going to college.”

When the National Science Foundation grant is complete, the intent will be to ensure that every high school student in Southeast Minnesota has access to a high technology career path.

“By starting early, students will save money on getting a higher education and have increased access to high-demand careers,” said Thul. “Our college vision is to enrich lives and communities by being the best. This is only the beginning as we continue to build the most robust campus of advanced technology in the state.”

About MSC Southeast

MSC Southeast is a two-year technical and community college that prepares students for a lifetime of learning by providing education for employment, skill enhancement, retraining, and transfer, to meet the needs of students and the community. The Winona campus opened in 1949, merging with the Red Wing, Minn., campus in 1992 and updating its name to Minnesota State College Southeast in 2016 with the change of mission to offer both technical training and the Associate of Arts degree. Minnesota State College Southeast is a member of Minnesota State. For more information, visit


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