Robbyn Wacker is sounding messages of hope for Central Minnesota’s largest university.
“We must have the wisdom to leverage our strengths, understand the current context in which we operate and open the doors to unbridled imagination and innovation.”
Wacker is expected to expand upon her hopeful vision in an inauguration address 10 a.m. Oct. 15 in Ritsche Auditorium.
In her Convocation address Tuesday, Wacker said the University’s strengths include a desire to advance equity and inclusion, a history of delivering innovative academic- and student-support programs, high-quality degree and certificate programs and a commitment to students called Our Husky Compact.
Despite those strengths, St. Cloud State and most of America’s public universities are hampered by declining birth rates and years of reduced state funding, she said.
The latter has helped drive up tuition, resulting in lower rates of degree completion and doubt about the value of higher education. In addition, for-profit, online education providers, such as University of Phoenix, have earned a significant share of the higher education market.
“We know there is no going back to the way things used to be,” said Wacker.
“While many describe these challenges as disruption and a disaster for higher education, I do not. We must see these changes as opportunities for innovation — to re-imagine how we deliver on our promise to educate students and serve our community.”
She said St. Cloud State needs a more diversified revenue stream that exploits these and other areas:
- new kinds of students
- a broader age-range of students
- improved student-retention rates
- easier processes for transfer students
- investments in new and re-purposed degree programs
Wacker said the leadership will improve visibility and national rankings and expand involvement in the region’s economic development.
“We will honor and learn from our past, without letting the past hold us back,” said Wacker. “We will create a culture that allows for taking risks that are calculated and strategic.”
Wacker acknowledged that some feel resigned to enrollment declines and doubtful that the University can ever be fiscally sustainable.
St. Cloud State will regain fiscal stability, she said, and it will be the university of choice in Minnesota by recapturing its market share of the best and brightest students in the region.