Excerpted from Inaugural address.
We don’t know yet where our thousands of hopes and dreams might lead us. We’re still immersed in those conversations. But based on what I have heard you all saying, reading thousands of the cards you wrote and online suggestions you made, I see certain watermarks emerging. So, based on those conversations, here are some of my hopes and dreams.
1. Together. First, as to how our future shall be envisioned. We will do this, in a word, together. Bruce, Tracy, Sheila, Kay, Alexandra, Steven, Mark, Larry, everyone here … my pledge to you is that we will do this together. Shared governance will lead the way for how we collaborate on and off campus. There are so many more ideas out there than up here. I’ve really only ever had a few great ideas, and I can summarize many of them quickly for you: My best idea ever was to marry Kelley Marie Hughes, and right up there was my idea to choose Elizabeth as my mother and Bob as my father, Liz and Jeff and Jenny as my siblings, and then Kelley participated significantly in the idea of having Katie and Lucie as our children – actually she gets most of the credit for that. And then there was my brilliant idea to move at last to Winona after 53 years and get to work with all of you. There may have been a few other good ideas along the way but those are the really consequential ones. So you can see I really need your help … there are SO many brilliant persons out there with so many great ideas, that it’s evident that we are far, far smarter than me! Winona State needs all of you to see the manifold possibilities all around us and help us become the university we are meant to be. I believe in the Hegelian dialectic, so dissent and debate won’t merely be tolerated, they will be expected and required. We’re educators, right? So we agree with Plato that truth is revealed through dialogue. But amidst our debate, civility and respect will be given by and to every member of our community.
2. Affordability. A founding principle for us dating back to our days as a normal school 154 years ago is that we would provide access and opportunity. So, we must do everything in our power to keep higher education affordable so that everyone has a chance for her hope or his dream. Our priority for investment will be student success. We will invest in instruction and in things that support a dynamic classroom, we will invest in services that help our students succeed, and we will invest in projects of demonstrable value to Minnesota’s health and prosperity, but on everything else we must ask ourselves: What is the Return on Investment? Can this be done differently, more efficiently, more effectively? Can a dollar be invested better elsewhere? I’m proud that Winona State held the line on tuition this year, and that over the past decade we have reduced the inflation-adjusted cost per student overall by 9%, reduced the adjusted cost per student of the administration, and reduced costs in other areas, but we need to do better still, and we must strive to remove affordability as a barrier.
3. Foundations. Professional programs will be a large part of our future, but the liberal arts and sciences will be the foundation for all of our excellent professional programs and we will never lose sight that we are preparing our students so that their lives will be well-lived. It’s not enough to know how to make a living … we must also know how to live. Our academic standards must remain high.
4. Innovation. Working with partners in the community, and with our dear friends at Southeast Technical College and Saint Mary’s University, I believe Winona will become known as “Innovation Valley.” We already teem with entrepreneurs and leaders – so let’s call it what it is and build the future right here. We will introduce new graduate and undergraduate programs when they are responsive and innovative, like our new Professional Science Masters degree, the first in Minnesota.
5. Education Village. As one example of that type of high-value, high ROI innovative partnerships, we will build an Education Village that becomes a model for teacher education programs and for partnering with local schools. This touches almost every college and most programs at the university and is of vital importance to our community and state. We will celebrate teachers and all those who prepare teachers as the heroes they are. A new Winona Model of teacher education will have influence far and wide.
6. Sustainability. Our beautiful campus will become ever greener, ever more beautiful, ever more sustainable, and Winona and Winona State will be destinations for lovers of beauty.
7. The Arts. Winona is already a destination for lovers of the arts and culture, and we will continue and enhance our role in supporting a vibrant arts and cultural community here. When I was a kid growing up in Minnesota, if you asked most Minnesotans what defined our state they would say three things: its natural beauty, its arts and culture, and the quality of its K12 and higher education. I think you can see that through our Education Village, our campus arboretum, and our support of the local art, theater, and music scene, Winona State University will help Winona be Minnesota as Minnesota is meant to be, and establish Winona as a destination for all lovers of the fine and performing arts, of beauty, of nature, and of learning.
8. Achievement Gap. We will not rest until we discover how to close the achievement gap. It should no longer matter what gender or race or class or financial circumstance define our students when it comes to their success, because we will find a way so that all are welcome and all can succeed. Our campus will be alive with diversity in all its forms and we will revel in the bountiful benefits it brings.
9. WSU Rochester. Rochester will be a laboratory for new and innovative ways of partnering with RCTC and coordinating with UMR, providing pathways for every student who wants one, delivering superb Baccalaureate and graduate programs that are relevant and responsive to the Rochester and Minnesota economies, and we will play our part in helping Rochester achieves its dreams as a community.
10. Student Care. Speaking of Rochester, that town is known for its approach to “Integrated Patient Care.” Health professionals swarm around patients and work on all facets of their health until a solution is found. Winona State can learn from this. What if we could swarm around students encountering challenges to their success and keep swarming until a solution is found? What would Integrated Student Care look like?
Those ten dreams seem to be emerging from our conversations so far. Together we know lots of great potential future directions, and I look forward to working together to define what we do.