From: Patrick Derleth

Winona

 

During the summer, I struggled with perhaps the greatest moral, practical, and spiritual question of my life thus far — the question of whether or not to return to Saint Mary’s University of Minnesota this fall. You see, I am one of those students who was hit quite hard by the university's recent program cuts, as I am a history major and political science minor who is also heavily involved in music on campus. Thus, this past May, I began to search for a new school, knowing that many of my professors had left voluntarily or been fired. I received generous offers from several comparable institutions with strong history and political science programs, and I am grateful for all they did to accommodate me in my last-minute search. Yet, this week, I am back at Saint Mary's, pursuing the same degrees. The decision seems illogical in many ways. My rationale, however, is this: Saint Mary’s, despite all its flaws, past and present, is still the best fit for me as a student. 

This is not simply a sentimental statement. I love my friends at Saint Mary’s, but I did not return solely to be with them, as obtaining a quality education has always been the primary goal of my attending college. Saint Mary’s, despite public perception to the contrary, is still not completely deficient in this respect. After all, as U.S. News and World Report made clear last year, its tuition prices and scholarships still make Saint Mary's the “Best Value in Minnesota.” Moreover, students at Saint Mary’s are still truly able to form close working relationships with their professors, akin to that of a master and apprentice, allowing for extremely personalized learning. Finally, I also believe that the cuts, as painful as they are, will allow me to truly personalize and individualize my major and minor paradigms as well. The administration has expressed openness to this to me, and I hope they will follow through with their assurances.

Of course, despite these benefits, there is no easy way around some of the hard truths about the changes. Communication between administration and students could have been better, and many faculty and students who loved Saint Mary’s were, quite frankly, thrown under the proverbial bus. I wish that the administration would better acknowledge these missteps publicly. Yet, the other reality is that our administrators are not perfect. They made what they thought was the best decision they could given the direness of the situation. For me, then, the bottom line is this: our students, faculty, and administrators; the city of Winona; and the Diocese of Winona-Rochester are all better off with a vibrant Saint Mary’s, one that reaffirms the centrality of the liberal arts and theology and produces learned graduates of virtue in multiple disciplines. I still believe that such a Saint Mary’s is a not-so-distant possibility. Thus, I hope that my testimony encourages you, the Winona community, to (continue to) provide the critical support the university needs to make this possibility a reality.