by Scott Olson - WSU President
For the last few months, I’ve been listening to Winona State University students, faculty, staff, and community friends share their hopes and dreams for this great university. Hundreds participated in our open forums, and we received nearly 800 suggestions from our alumni and alumnae. That so many would share so much tells me that Winona State’s vitality and relevance have been undiminished during the last five years of economic hardship. The challenges have been tremendous, but the good news is that we never surrendered hoping and dreaming about a great future for WSU.
One thing that has been abundantly clear throughout the hopes and dreams process is that the community of Winona is central to our identity as a university and to our future. This community defines us, inspires us, and gives us purpose.
There have been many times in our history when a vision for WSU ultimately benefited the entire community. A great example is the WSU Courtyard, which closed off Sanborn, Washington, and King streets and created a beautiful, walkable campus that serves as an amenity to the whole community. One needs only to join us on a summer evening for a free concert in the Courtyard before a Great River Shakespeare Festival performance to know that here was a hope and dream that really did come true through a common and persistent vision for a brighter future.
A strong Winona State University is good for Winona. Consider the impact of our abundant lecture series, theater, dance, symphony, jazz, chamber orchestra, and concert choir performances, as well as our sponsorship roles with the Frozen River Film Festival and Beethoven Festival. Not many communities in Minnesota and Wisconsin the size of Winona can boast cultural offerings like these.
We are good for local business and industry, too. A statewide study found WSU contributes $307 million to the regional economy and supplies 3,875 jobs. Recently we partnered with RTP Company to purchase new state-of-the-art equipment for the COMTEC testing lab on campus. A student intern was instrumental in researching the equipment, and that student is now employed by RTP. Our COMTEC lab exemplifies how we strive to create direct links between educating our students and the needs of local industry. Through our exploration of Hopes and Dreams we will discover ideas that will transform WSU. Transformation for WSU means continuing the many practices that enhance our quality while extending them in logical directions for the future. Three things have become unique markers of distinction for WSU: community engagement, cutting-edge technology in the classroom, and sustainability. In any of these three areas, resting on our laurels will inevitably lead to mediocrity, so we must continue to innovate. Transformation also means going beyond what we currently do in a way that is true to our heritage. Building on our 154 years of excellence, how can we prepare our students to be leaders and to become meaningful contributors to their communities? How can we build a foundation so that the next 150 years will be dynamic and prosperous for WSU and for Winona? As a campus and as a community, we’ll soon identify inspiring answers to these questions.
Themes that will help answer those questions are already emerging from our hopes and dreams conversations. Facilities, technology, programs, diversity, and new ways we might serve the Winona community are some of the more prevalent themes. To my delight, we’ve discovered that so far the most frequently used word was “student” – demonstrating that the success of every student is central to our hopes and dreams.
From its very beginnings, Winona State has been a community effort, and we hope to continue this mutually-beneficial relationship. Every day, the community of Winona supports the hopes and dreams of our students, faculty, and staff … and my hopes and dreams, too.
We want you to be a part of building our future. Working through our shared governance processes, we will develop a plan that will be shared with the campus and community for comment. Feel free to contact me directly at any time at firstname.lastname@example.org. And, as always, I invite you to visit campus and take advantage of all the opportunities at your state university.