Thoughts on the future of WSU from President Scott R. Olson

Many pundits think the future of higher education is one hundred percent online. While there is certainly a place for that, I think we need to preserve and enhance the excellent experiences students now get in Winona and from WSU-Rochester. Doing so means partnering closely with the local community to achieve mutual prosperity.

Rochester has a singular vision for its future. It is called “Destination Medical Center,” “DMC” for short. DMC isn’t only about medical education – it’s more about creating a whole, balanced, vibrant community. WSU will support the DMC, preparing many of the nurses, teachers, and other professionals that Rochester needs.

In Winona we don’t have a singular focus like Rochester has, and that’s fine because it means WSU can have a strong hand in shaping local priorities. We have taken to calling these four essential elements the “pillars” of Winona: things that are already true of Winona and of Winona State that could be made truer still, and in their strengthening, strengthen us. These pillars tie WSU to Winona, making it the best possible place for our students, our neighbors, and ourselves.

Recreation, Athletics, and Wellness. We believe a healthy environment is a welcoming environment for our students, employees, and neighbors. We already have the Integrated Wellness Center. Tunnels under the railroad tracks that will unite the campus are well underway. Our outdoor adventure programs are growing. The Cal Fremling Floating Classroom has opened up the river as a learning space. This past year we had two NCAA national champions!

Entrepreneurship, Creativity, and Innovation. Winona has always been about startup businesses becoming big successes. We need to make sure that endures. Our Business Engagement Center will be open soon. We are hoping to create entrepreneurship programs and a business accelerator for our students to make Winona an “Innovation Valley.”

Arts and Culture. A thriving arts community makes a wonderful environment for learning. WSU already supports the Minnesota Marine Art Museum, Great River Shakespeare Festival, Minnesota Beethoven Festival, Frozen River Film Festival, and so many other art and entertainment projects. Our new Laird Norton Center for Arts and Design will greatly advance our role in supporting the arts.

Learning. Learning is what it is really all about for us. By now you may have heard of the Education Village. Winona State was founded as the first normal school west of the Mississippi. Our vision is to be a national and world leader in preparing teachers today. The Education Village will offer significant reforms, including the recruitment of diverse teacher candidates, early student teaching and other clinical experiences, technology-infused learning, cultural competency, and extensive professional development, among other reforms.

As I hope you can see, Winona State University is committed to the communities of Winona and Rochester. By helping them prosper, we will prosper, too. In this way, we will live out our mission as a community of learners, truly improving our world. We would love your ideas about how we can support these pillars, and about any aspects of WSU’s continued excellence. Thank you for your support!

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Cassandra Douglas

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