Metro State’s original core values remain vital—and groundbreaking

From the President:

We are the public, urban university in the metro.

Many universities are located in the Twin Cities; one of them is even a public university, but in this context “public, urban” distinguishes Metropolitan State as a university community that learns in, with and from our community, which stimulates critical thinking by presenting students with real challenges to wrestle with.

In a very interesting twist of fate, a few weeks ago as the search for Metropolitan State’s next president was winding down, one of the library faculty discovered the founding documents for Metropolitan State. In a box that had been sitting at the Minnesota Historical Society for decades—then-Chancellor G. Theodore Mitau’s charge to President David E. Sweet and President Sweet’s response.

When I had a chance to see the documents—to see the vision Metropolitan State’s founders had for us back in 1971—I was very excited. How had their vision shaped us? How had their vision changed over nearly half a century? Turns out the core values and commitments of 1971 are the same in 2016.

Metropolitan State should be innovative and non-traditional:
Just as in the Sixties and the Seventies, there has been a revolution in economic, political, social, technological and global spheres. What higher education needs is innovative, flexible and non-traditional universities. Guess what? We’ve got a 45-year head start! We are ready to be the creators of the next new thing.

Metropolitan State should serve non-traditional learners and meet the unmet educational needs of the Twin Cities:

That’s what drives us. It still includes working adults but it’s also communities of color and New Americans. We began democratizing learning long before the internet and MOOCs became ubiquitous and began to batter the walls of the ivory tower. It’s the MnSCU baccalaureate plan.

Metropolitan State should be a college with the community as its campus:
How do we do that? Faculty with expert, experiential knowledge; community-based learning within relationships based on mutual respect and benefit for the student, community and university; 30 instructional sites across the Twin Cities; and, a robust program of online learning. President Sweet noted that Metropolitan State is not an “enclave within the Cities” for those who want to retreat from the urban environment; we are fully engaged in being part of the solutions our urban communities are seeking. Just as we are today.

That’s not to say Metropolitan State has not evolved.

During capital bonding tours, groundbreakings and openings over the past few years, there is always some speaker who reminds us that Metropolitan State was founded as the “university without walls,” but here we are erecting more walls. It’s true—we’ve built a lot of walls—many beautiful and inviting walls (and doors), but that’s because this university wasn’t founded to be one thing forever. It was founded with a spirit of flexibility and innovation, to meet the changing needs of its students and community.

Change has happened and we have grown. We wouldn’t be able to serve more than 11,500 students, house our 178 resident faculty, our many advisors and student development staff, provide a technologically and scientifically competitive education or gather for events that enrich our campus and greater community without the walls.

Metropolitan State is going to continue to evolve because that’s what is needed to serve the changing and growing population of the Twin Cities, who will want and need a flexible, innovative, accessible, affordable education grounded in the liberal arts and preparing them for life, work, leadership and citizenship.

It’s easy to focus on the walls and to miss the point. Metropolitan State—at its heart, at its core—is not about the walls, it’s about removing barriers. It’s always been about being the university without barriers.

Our students face barriers. They often don’t know how higher education works. They are likely to be the first in their families to go to college; many are new Americans; a lot have tried before, in other places, and they’ve failed. They’ve got a lot they are figuring out.

Homelessness, hunger, personal trauma, no money, unpredictable work hours, no quiet place to study, no internet access, no car, lack of childcare, families who depend on them for survival. These are some of the barriers to education our students face. These are the barriers we work to remove.

It’s easy to outline the future.

BIG GOAL: People throughout the Twin Cities, whether potential students, business leaders, civic partners or philanthropists will see METROPOLITAN STATE as a destination:

  • For obtaining bachelor’s and graduate degrees
  • For continuing professional development
  • For employees
  • For expertise onregional issues and problems
  • For partnership and engagement
  • For making a positive difference in people’s lives

GROWTH: Increase mission attainment and impact

  • Good for thestate & our community

INNOVATION: Maintain our reputation as an institution that approaches learning in new ways; that’s effective at promoting learning that is not constrained by the conventional ways of thinking.

One way I’ll be working to achievethese goals together with all of Metro State’s communities is through social media. Please follow and engage with me on twitter at @MetroPresArthur.

 

Ginny Arthur, president, Metropolitan State University