People choose to live in St. Cloud and the Central Minnesota region because of the quality of life, economic opportunity and, of course, the quality higher education programs offered here.
Since my first major address at convocation this fall, I have invited the campus community to join me in making St. Cloud State a university of first choice in Minnesota. To some that sounds like a bold statement – to be first choice. It is not so bold when that goal is realistic and attainable. In the proof, it’s obvious.
It is clear that St. Cloud State is an exceptional university. For 150 years, St. Cloud State University has been educating tomorrow’s workforce and the next generation of leaders. From humble beginnings training teachers as the state’s third normal school, we have progressed to serving students from over 90 different countries, with more than 200 undergraduate programs and more than 60 graduate programs. As the world evolves, we evolve with it.
In 1869, we educated students on slates and chalkboards. Today our students are working with professors to launch instruments into space, like the students who worked with retired professor and physicist John Harlander on the MIGHTI instrument that NASA launched aboard the ICON satellite earlier this month.
Our faculty are also conducting research that is reshaping how we keep communities safe. As wildfires rage on the west coast, meteorology professor Alan Srock’s work as lead author on the Hot-Dry-Windy Index has led to the prototype of a forecasting tool in concert with the U.S. Forest Service to help fire managers anticipate days when weather conditions would have the greatest potential to make wildfires erratic or especially dangerous.
Our alumni around the world are further proof that St. Cloud State has already been a university of choice for more than 118,000 alumni who were looking to unlock their potential and a gainful future.
Of course, we have our challenges too, but when we view challenges as opportunities and choose to take control of our destiny, we will see our way into a future where St. Cloud State is a university that is vibrant, thriving and unstoppable in a community where people from all walks of life want to live, work and thrive.
But being a university of choice is about more than just saying it. We must build on the good work already underway and take charge of our future – and be bold.
So how will we become a university of first choice in Minnesota?
First, we will reclaim our preeminence in the higher education landscape by providing our high-quality education to an expanded marketplace of students — first-time students who live in Central Minnesota; students who need non-traditional opportunities to complete degrees or pivot into new careers, including online and accelerated degree options; students who want to transfer to and from St. Cloud State; and we will extend our reach to students from other countries.
Second, we will rebuild our capacity to respond to challenges and invest in the strategies and infrastructure we need to be successful. One of the newest investments is in the creation of a Strategic Enrollment Management division that is leading and coordinating a campus-wide approach to strategic enrollment strategies.
Our student success efforts to retain more students have been successful – this year we saw a 5.2 percent increase in third semester retention. We will also be requiring most new freshmen to live on campus – a strategy that has been proven to increase retention.
Third, we must respond by unleashing innovative thinking to build on our successes and re-imagine how we serve a changing student demographic with skills that will last them a lifetime.
We are in the business of preparing students for not only their first job after graduation, but also their last job years from now – which will likely be in a career that does not exist today. The key to preparing our students’ success is building on the community partnerships we have in place. These partnerships are necessary to ensuring that we know what programs and competencies our students need to be successful, to advance technology transfer and to facilitate economic development in the region.
This is an incredible university and community and we have a bright future ahead of us. I am looking forward to working with you in the future as we advance our university and community.
This is the opinion of St. Cloud State University President Robbyn Wacker. To A Higher Degree is published the fourth Sunday of the month and rotates among the presidents of the four largest Central Minnesota higher education institutions.