Compass: MnSCU Approach to Higher Education


(piano music) – [Voiceover] The following
program is a production of Pioneer Public Television. (soft pop music) – Hello, and welcome to
Compass, a production of Pioneer Public Television. I’m Les Heen, your
host for Compass. It’s a weekly discussion of
public policy and important issues facing our viewing area. This week, a second look at
the future of higher education in our area. Last week, we discussed how
education is changing at the University of Minnesota,
Morris and at private colleges. This week a look at the two
year and four year schools in the Minnesota state
college and university system. And one of the universities
in that system is Southwest State in
Marshall, Minnesota. Pioneer’s Laura Kay Prosser
recently talked with Southwest State President Connie
Gores about how her college is changing to stay competitive. Here’s that report. – With comprehensive
universities like
Southwest Minnesota State University, SMSU,
their core is liberal arts with additional professional
programs geared to specific areas. According to Connie Gores,
SMSU President, they keep expanding through new programs
in hope that it will increase student interest in enrollment. – We also continually look
at where we are with regard to our academic programs. It’s real important that
we continue to stay current and have meaningful distinctive
programs for our students. So, 2,500 is a wonderful
size, where all our faculty and our staff can work
directly with our students, can get to know them as people. Can help them find in themselves
that magical spark, that passion, and what
their interests are. Match those up. Help them get internships and
other experiential learning opportunities and help
them find jobs or go on to graduate school. So, what we’ve done is focus
in on academic advising, focus on career placement
and career advising. Focus on experiential
opportunities, so our students get to practice outside of
the classroom what they’re learning inside
of the classroom. – [Voiceover] There is no
question to Gores that in order for all college institutions
to really prosper, they will have to learn how to work
together in meaningful ways through partnership
and engagement. – One of the things we’ve
done to expand our reach as an institution, we’re
the only bachelor’s degree, at least the first, in the
country in culinology, which is really about food science
and about the culinary world. We also have a very strong
program with a community college in the cities, with
Normandale Community College, where they take their first
two years there, and they take their last two years from
SMSU right on the campus of Normandale. We work really closely with
especially our two year partners to create these agreements
so that students can go seamlessly from one
institution to the next. – [Voiceover] That partnership
extends to the development of new fields, such as the
new SMSU Ag Education degree. Institute collaboration with
two year colleges and even high schools over curriculum
like this works towards making transfers even smoother. – In our Ag Education program,
one of the fascinating components of it is the fact
that when we created this program, our faculty members
worked with faculty members from Ridgewater College,
two year college, from South Central, another two year
college, and Minn West, another two year college. And they put together the
curriculum based on what is offered at some of those
other institutions. So, Ridgewater, up in Willmar,
students take classes there, and those classes
transfer into us directly. Also, they offer some of
the courses as part of our own curriculum. So, we really have some
strong collaborations there with these other institutions. – [Voiceover] But it’s not
just about partnerships, expansions of
programs, or transfers. It’s mainly about results. – Now, at SMSU, I’m proud
to sat that our students do get employed
when they graduate. We have between 96 and 99%
of our students who are employed or in graduate
school within six months of graduating from college. If we’re gonna continue to
provide education for our students and provide these
opportunities and help them truly change their own
individual circumstance and get a bachelor’s degree, get
an undergraduate education, we have to support them in
that effort, and we have to provide it for them. That’s our priority. That’s why we’re here. We’re not without
our challenges, but
I think we’ve got the right people to meet those
challenges and to make a difference. (soft piano music) – [Voiceover] While we talked
with Terry, he informed us about a professor at the
Tech college who was honored by the MnSCU Board
for her practices. I’m Laura Kay Prosser
with the story. Shannon Fiene, a mathematics
instructor at Minn West Community and Technical
College was recently awarded the 2016 Excellence in
Teaching by the MnSCU Board of Trustees, much in part due
to her staffing to take a look at how her courses could be
redesigned for better student accessibility. – I was doing a lot of work
online doing web conferencing. And the idea just kinda arose. That, hey, why can’t we use
this web conferencing software to deliver a class. And so, here at the college,
we deliver classes a lot of different ways. And this was just another way
to try to deliver a class. The first class I taught, I
just did it with one trial student. And her issue was her kids got
off the bus right at the time that my class started. And she had a long way to
travel, and she really wanted to take the class. So, she was kinda my guinea pig. And she told me what was
working, what wasn’t working, and we adapted. And then, I offered it to a
smaller group, and then bigger and bigger, and now we offer
it to any student that really wants to take class that way. So, the students tell us what
works and what don’t work. It’s funny now. I usually post a
recording of my class. And if I don’t have it posted
within like one or two hours after class, if I forget,
which I inevitably do from time to time, my students
will be on there emailing me right away telling me get
the recording up there. – [Voiceover] Hybrid courses
vary from school to school, depending on their current
accessibility and how the course is run. Fiene warns that it’s
important to ask for details when considering
taking a hybrid course. – Our students get a choice. It’s the same class. But they can either come to
campus and take it face to face like in a traditional classroom. They can login online and
watch class over the internet, and we like to joke that
that’s our pajama population, right. They’re in their pajamas. And then, the third way is we
record that lecture as if they were in the classroom, and I
post a link to the recording. And the student, at their
convenience, can watch the recording. And most of my students that
do that will do it at odd hours of the night after
their kids go to bed and those kind of things. But some of the benefits
we’ve seen, we didn’t expect. And one is that even my
students that come face to face can rewatch that recording. So, if they miss something,
or they always joke and say I make it look really easy in
class, but when they get home and they’re actually doing
the problems, they have a hard time. So, they can go back
and rewatch the problem. They can fast-forward. They can skip ahead. And so, many of our students,
our students with learning disabilities, our
student with English as second language, they can
rewatch those recordings, and if they don’t quite get
it the first time, they can watch until they get tired
of seeing me obviously. – [Voiceover] For Minn West,
the hybrid model was quickly transferred to their online
classes that were already in existence. – I took those classes and
moved ’em back to more of the hybrid model. For example, math is a very
demonstration-oriented type discipline. So, you know, a lot of my
recordings are just of my hands working math problems, and
not on my face, which I appreciate a lot. The students
probably do as well. I actually am very honest with
them that even if they don’t need help with the math,
just learning how to use the web conferencing software
will be a huge benefit to them and their working job. I mean, can you imagine your
first week on the job, and they want to have a meeting. You say, well, why don’t we
use web conferencing software. And you know, you’ll
be the head of the job. So, you know, they need
some of those skills. Of course, everybody
needs math skills. But they need
technology skills too. So, if we can incorporate ’em
in and having learning more than one thing at a time. That’s just a benefit
to our students. – [Voiceover] When you think
about how perspectives of teaching has changed and
how technology has adapted to assist education, these
hybrid courses are just par for the course. – When I cam here, I thought
a traditional classroom is the only way to go. And then, I started teaching
online classes, and I started to realize that, yeah,
students can learn online. And then, the hybrid is
a may to merge the two. And so, we have to
stay on top of it. And we have to incorporate
it in new and unique ways, as more of an attention
getter as well. Their attention is,
they’ve grown up in the technology generation. They change from one app to
the to the other in a second. And so we have to adapt as
well just to help teach them. – And with us now to discuss
the efforts of two year colleges to improve and
to meet the needs of the changing workforce, we have
Minnesota West Community and Technical College
President Terry Gaalswyk. Terry, thank for coming in. – Thank you for the opportunity. Let’s start first
by understanding
what Minnesota West Technical and Community College
is because for people who haven’t look at higher education
maps in a while might not understand that there are a lot
of campuses that you have to be responsible for. – Minnesota West Community and
Technical College is a group of campuses that
were independent and
have sense merged. It consists of four technical
college campuses and one junior college campus. We have campuses in Jackson,
Worthington, Pipestone, Canby, and Granite Falls,
with learning centers in Marshall and in Laverne. – So, essentially, for people
who might not be as familiar with western Minnesota, it’s
sort of an L shaped group of campuses down in the
western side of the state and a little bit in the
southwestern corner. And that reflects one of the
changes of higher education because of course we have
consolidation or grouping together of administrative
functions for
these big campuses. Right? – Yes, that’s correct. We’ve seen that
across the nation. We’ve seen consolidation
as a way to make sure that the institutions are
accessible and affordable. It creates efficiencies in
the administrative structure. – Now, two year education, of
course, there’s been a lot of attention paid to two year
colleges and workforce development ’cause it’s, you
know, every so often, it is something that needs to
get a lot of attention. So, but for you, isn’t workforce
development a lot about partnering with K-12 and with
industried help to figure out what the region needs. – Minnesota West is uniquely
positioned, as are a number of the two year colleges in the
MnSCU system to work very closely with our industry
partners, our K through 12 partners, responding to the
realities of the communities we’ve been missioned to serve. And we see that particularly
amongst our four technical institutes. – So, when you think about
two year colleges, and you think about the changes
for people who may have gone through a technical
college say 30 years ago. – Yes. – They went to a technical
college, and they came out with a certificate probably. And it was in a given field
of study, and that was that. But, of course, what happens
is now people say, well, there may be other skills
that are required now that weren’t required 30 years ago. So, you’ve got an integrated
sort of curriculum. Right, in what they’re studying? – The curriculum is ever
changing at the two year level, working very closely our
industry partners, we listen to their needs and respond with
the training and skill set that they’re requiring. And we’ll take a look at the
opportunities in the two year sector. What we’ve seen is that what
traditionally was a terminal certificate, diploma, or two
year degree is now a step on the ladder to even
a baccalaureate or
a master’s degree. So, we have this continuation
of degree attainment even with our technical degrees. – So, someone, in other words,
may get a technical college degree, and they decide two
to three years later that they need additional
certification or
they want to pursue another degree path. So then, they may go back
and get a different degree that’s two year, or go on to
a four year course and study over several years, right? – That’s correct, yeah. We’ve learned that there’s a
number of industry partners that has the look to work
with our highly skilled individuals. They’re looking for
opportunities for
those individuals to move on into management careers
or administrative careers. What we’ve seen in the
four year sector is an acknowledgement and an
appreciation for the skills that the students gained in
their two year programs. And we’ve seen the four year
bachelor of applied science degree come into its own
over the past 20 years. – And some of this that
strikes me is that there tended to be sort of for a
lot of people I think
two very different worlds. There was a technical
college education, a two year education where you learned
a trade, you learned a craft, and then there was a four year
education where let’s just say you may never have picked
up a wrench, you may never have picked up a tool, and they
were seen as very different worlds. Are they really merging well,
and is that going to continue? – I believe it will, and I
think it’s a reflection of the expectations placed upon the
system of higher education. I think what we’ve heard
is that lifelong learners, people work many different
careers and many different, work for many different
industry partners over their careers. And in that conversation,
we’ve heard that lifelong learning, the continued
acquisition of
knowledge and skills is important. And we’ve seen the
sector respond. – And I think isn’t that
also a response to the idea that if you look at the
number of careers that someone may have, and perhaps
you have a number there. But is it five, is it seven? How many times in the course
of people will need to change jobs and need
to be retrained, right? – The number we hear is seven. And we think that’s probably
a little bit on the low side. Coming through the
Great Recession here,
we saw a number of working adults change
careers multiple times within the past five years. – And I suppose when you talk
about the recession or those changes, what a lot of people
may not realize is that two year education often tends
to be sort of countercyclical because when the recession
hits, you have a lot of people who need to go back
and get retrained. So, in areas of recession, yoU
may see a lot more students than you do in a
non-recession view, right? – It’s one of the strengths
of the two year sector, responding to the realities
of the communities that we serve. Also, as we see, industry
partners shed jobs. We see those individuals
come back for retraining. And we have the ability to
be nimble and to respond to those needs. – Yeah, now one of the things
that I know some people have talked about when I’ve asked
them about their own career paths as well, I was in this
career track, and then I went over here. And then, I went to
this other institution. But, wow, transfer credits
were a huge headache because I lost so much. But I know that Minnesota
transfer curriculum has been around for awhile. But how does that really
work, and is it helping? – You know, it is helping
students, and there’s room for continued improvement. You know, there’s a
strong curriculum. The chancellor’s office
reports 95% of the students transfer those
credits very well. So, it serves a large number
of students and serves them very well. For the 5% that don’t, we
ask them to challenge the decision. And we’ll work closely on that. We’re seeing collaboration
across state lines as well. As we look to partner with
institutions directly to the west and directly to the south. You’ll see those institutions
also respond in our very favorite students. One of the other things that
strikes me about two year education is I’ve looked
at schools is that for many of the people who are
in those communities, they treasure the fact that
there is a two year institution in their area. Partly because they view it
as a much more likely path for someone who is in
their community to get the education stay. Is that still true, I mean, do
a lot of people who go to the institutions tend to stay or
where do they go when they (mumbles). – What we know is that the
majority of our students at the five campuses are within a 30
mile radium of that campus. And over, I think it’s over 85%. 87% is number I want to say
of the graduates of Minnesota West stay, live, and
work in this great state. So, we know that
those individuals
will stay in here and contributing to our communities. – And one of the things I
know about campuses too that when you look at Minnesota
and, you know Terry, you got experience in Iowa and South
Dakota and other states is that in Minnesota we have
a lot of higher education campuses. At one point, I know there
were numbers that said “If California were to add
as many campuses per capita as Minnesota, California would
need another 150 campuses. We have a lot of campuses,
and it’s fairly close. And some people say the
system’s overbuilt, that we have too many. But other people
will sometimes say, “Well, no wait a minute.” “This is an opportunity ’cause
everybody should be within” “1/2 an hour to 45 minutes.” And it sounds like a lot of
your students are in that 1/2 hour to 45 minute
drive from where you are. They are, and I think I
have a little data here. That is a criticism that
I’ve heard since coming to this state. And if I may just elaborate
a little bit on some of the issues faced in this state. If we look at the spring
2014 graduating class of Minnesota high school
students, 69 out of 100 of the high school students on average
went on to post secondary education. That number is down from a high
of 73 about seven years ago. Out of those 69 students,
19 of them left the state to take post-secondary
opportunities in border states. That number is up. In reality, what we’re seeing
is only 50 out of 100 of our local Minnesota graduates are
availing themselves of the campuses in this great state. So, there’s opportunity for
these campuses to even work more closely with the
students of our communities. – And is sometimes that a
matter of getting in and having those meeting with
the local students to say “Did you know there’s this
opportunity a short distance away?” ‘Cause it strokes me of course. Kids will drive by a campus
for years and not really understand what’s
going on inside. – I think there’s a number
of contributing factors. I was a young man at one
time, and I looked to go to the big city. I elected to go to a small
private liberal arts institution simply because of my background
and family connections. And I think that’s
the key there. What we hear from our students
is the choice of attending school, the choice of which
career you want to start in is affected greatly by what
they learned from their parents, their loved
ones, and their peers. In fact, recently we
surveyed over 600 students. And 75% of them said the
influence from family members and peers was greater than the
influence they receive from the college or from their
high school in choosing to attend college and which
career they chose to go into. – Do you think most
parents understand that? – You know, I don’t know
if they do or don’t. It was an eye opening
statistics for me. 75% of this decision making
process is attributed to outside influences not to the
information that’s
being shared by the college (mumbles). – Yeah, and so it’s also
a little bit like family expectations. You talked about that some
of your connections, your relationships influenced
your choice of where you went to school. And it strikes me that there
are a lot of other people who are in the same boat because
of course one of the biggest determinants of whether someone
goes on to higher education from high school is
where there’s someone
else in the family has been there before or at
least take some active role in encouraging them. – What we, I just mentioned
that 69 out of 100 high school graduates chose to attend
post secondary education. And when we look at that data
a little bit deeper, we notice that students of color of the
number drops to 60 out of 100. And if we dig into that even
a little bit deeper, students that come from meager
backgrounds, students
that would have qualified for free and reduced
lunch in high school, that number is not 60 out of 100. That number is 50 out of 100. So, to help those students
take that first step, it really is the relationship between
that student and a loved one, a peer, to help them come
to the organizations. – And then, wouldn’t it also
be that once they get there making sure that the sort of
systems are in place, the best practices if you will, to get
them to complete the degree. – That’s one of the things I
think I’m most proud of when I talk about, and I’m gonna
talk a little bit about Minnesota West here. But about a year ago when
I was interviewing for this position, I was struck
by the spirit of service. I felt from the faculty and
staff at the organization. And that evidences itself
in our retention rates. Minnesota West has a retention
rate for full-time students that is 12 percentage points
higher than our peers. Those are institutions
that look exactly like us. We are 24 percentage points
higher for part-time students. Our graduation rate is 17
percentage points higher than our peers. And it simply speaks to the
caring nurturing environment that our students have the
opportunity to study in. And it really is the faculty
and staff that make it happen. – And many of course your
institutions being in fairly small communities, it would
seem that that would fit into the mold of people in the
community taking interest in the institution and in the students. Is it a large reflection do
you think of the communities you’re in? – I do. I do. I think it’s a large
reflection of the values of Southwest Minnesota. And I also think it’s a
reflection of who’s working at the organization and
why they’re working at the organization. I feel called to
the two year sector. And when I visit with faculty
and staff, I often hear that same response. Particularly
amongst the faculty. Individuals that are extremely
well qualified, extremely well credentialed, and they
choose to work at a two year college because
they want to teach. And they’re committed
to student success. – One of the other things,
Terry, that I’ve noticed over the years about two year
colleges is some increasing specialization over the years. Let’s say if you go back, and
you compare a generation ago where many, the technical
colleges didn’t have a community college relationship
or component. And they also in many cases
did not have quite as much of a specialization. But what we’ve seen is now
there are many technical college campuses. And I know you’ve had some
of them where that technical college campus might be the
only one in the state that offers that program. – That’s correct. We have some very
strong programs. First of all, a recent program
that we developed in Jackson is a welding program. It’s world-class. It’s cutting edge technology. And it was only made available
through a generous donation from AGCO. We’ll stand that program up
against any other welding program not only in this great
state but across the midwest. So, we’re pretty proud of it. It’s very vertical, the skill
set, the technology that the faculty members use to
determine the weld, the depth of the weld, the penetration,
the rate and all of those types of things,
it’s just remarkable. – Yeah, and I know that
there are other examples. I think Pipestone of course. Pipestone is known as being
the only meat cutting school in the state. And there are many
other examples. And as that specialization
or that sort of you know that sort of tracking is that
in part due to the fact that what happens in the technical
college system across the state is that there may
only be a certain number of students. And so, what you want is to
direct some of those students into those programs and get
the best quality you can in those programs. Is that how it works? – It is, it is, and I think
what you also see is that those programs create a specialization
based on the local industry needs in response to
local industry needs. And it takes on a personality
of its own that really provides opportunity for the
students of that program when they graduate. – When you think about higher
education, now, you said you had studied in or you’ve
worked in South Dakota, and in Iowa, and Nebraska. And your own background, I know
you said was in mathematics. Tell us how Minnesota and
South Dakota and Iowa compare either with each other or
with the rest of the country. – I think there’s
some differences in governance structure. When we take a look at the
South Dakota model of the technical institutes that are
extensions of the K through 12 system. They don’t report to a separate
board, and they don’t have a separate governance structure. The fiscal agent really is
the K through 12 system. In Iowa, the community and
technical colleges, much like Minnesota, have merged. And we see that the variety
of programs represent the students within that are
seeking to transfer or going to a career technical field. But the governance structure’s
quite a bit different. It’s a local board of elected
officials who to some extent have some taxing authority. Iowa is kind of a mix between
the Minnesota and Nebraska models. The Nebraska model is very
much a locally controlled board with significant authority
and autonomy in regards to what the college does. They have also merged the
technical institutes and the two year colleges into a
community college setting. We do not see the community
college structure within South Dakota. I think we’re gonna see some
interesting developments here in November as the
state wrestles with I believe it’s amendment R, where the
governance structure of the technical institute is being
brought forward to the voters for consideration of is
this serving the state well. – So, very different states,
very different models. You know, where do we go from
here if you have a student who let’s say is interested
in two year education. It seems like a lot to sort out. Where do they start? – You know, I think one of
the other things that we’re seeing in higher education
is parents and students are becoming more critical
of the institution that they choose to attend. They want to lean
heavily on data. How successful are the
students when they attend those institutions? How successful are they? Do they get jobs? What level of debt do they
carry when they exit the institution? They’re becoming much more
critical consumers of the opportunities presented because
they do have a wide array of opportunities. As I work with students, I
encourage them to look for the fit, what feels like
home, what feels like the institution that you’ll be
successful in, where do you make the connections with
the faculty and staff, where do you believe
you’ll be successful. That could be a two year
institution, a four year institution. – Good advice to end on. Thank you. – You’re welcome. – Terry Gaalswyk, President of
Minnesota West Community and Technical College, thanks
for joining us on Compass. And that’s it for this week. Join us next week as we take
a look at how One Watershed, a pilot project,
working together to
improve water quality in the region. (soft pop music)

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