July 2011 newsletter
For the 90,000 college students across the state who rely on the Minnesota State Grant program to afford college, the special legislative session held this week brought welcome news. To help address increased demand and a projected shortfall in the program, the Legislature and governor agreed to increase funding by $21 million or 7.3% for the upcoming biennium.
"This is a good outcome for students at all colleges, private and public. The additional funding for the State Grant program will help meet the additional need for student financial aid created by the recession," said Paul Cerkvenik, president of the Minnesota Private College Council.
For the past two years, demand for the State Grant program has exceeded available resources. Last academic year, students saw their awards shrink by 20%. With a more than $30 million program shortfall, students faced a similar outcome for the coming academic year. Thanks to the commitment of the Legislature and the governor to help college students with financial need, returning students will receive more assistance than they would have otherwise — and more than they received in the last academic year.
"At a time when cuts had to be made to so many areas of the state's budget, policymakers wisely chose to increase State Grant funding that helps low- and middle-income students afford college," Cerkvenik said. "This funding is a critical investment in the future workforce; it is a long-term investment in a stronger, more competitive Minnesota economy."
However, State Grant funding will still not fully meet projected need; a shortfall of approximately $10 million will remain. That means that the grants that are awarded the next two academic years will remain smaller than what is called for under state statute.
Hundreds of college students from Minnesota's private colleges came to the Capitol during the session to meet with legislators and make the case for the State Grant program. College presidents and community leaders on the Council's board also advocated for State Grant program funding in meetings with legislators and through testimony at legislative committee hearings.
In addition to their actions on financial aid, policy leaders also approved the state appropriations to the University of Minnesota and the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities (MnSCU). The University of Minnesota's appropriation was cut $194 million or 15%. The special session compromise provided $50 million more than was included in the Legislature's original budget that Gov. Dayton had vetoed. MnSCU's budget was reduced $170 million, or 13.5%. MnSCU also received about $10 million more in the special session compromise than was included in the original legislative recommendation.
When Sarah Park joined St. Catherine University in 2009 as an assistant professor of Library and Information Science, she was excited about the school and its support of her own research interests. Park studies the information-seeking behaviors of Korean adoptees searching for answers about their past and she plans to develop a model that might also be applied to other adoptee communities.
Park is Korean American — she was born in Seoul and moved with her Korean parents to Los Angeles when she was just four months old. She is part of a growing cadre of faculty of color at the 17 institutions of the Minnesota Private College Council (MPCC). As Minnesota's population becomes increasingly diverse (about 15% are non-white), the number of students and faculty of color are growing too.
Looking at the data, in 2009 MPCC institutions employed 465 faculty of color; a decade earlier it was 278. This increase of 67% compares to an increase of 27% for white faculty. While MPCC institutions have been able to recruit a more diverse faculty, the 9% non-white faculty still lags behind the state's diversity — 15% — and the ethnic diversity of our student body — 13%.
These data reflect an increased commitment to hiring faculty of color in Minnesota, but the numbers don't tell the whole story. Attracting qualified faculty of color often requires intentional recruiting. And, once hired, it is important to have institutional support in place for the new faculty.
An institutional commitment
Ongoing efforts are underway at MPCC institutions to increase the number of faculty of color. Andrea Turner, assistant vice president of human resources at Augsburg College, points to her college's mission of being committed to intentional diversity in its life and work. "In addition to our efforts around recruiting, the college understands that to help students become informed citizens, thoughtful stewards, critical thinkers and responsible leaders, we must demonstrate in and outside the classroom intercultural competency in our work. This means that the diversity is the mix of people and intercultural competency is the ability to make the mix work."
You can't have the population and mission Augsburg does and not be willing to work in both recruiting and building on intercultural competency, Turner said. She believes that learning from people with varied backgrounds and living on a diverse campus helps build relationships — and specific programming helps develop intercultural competence. For example, Augsburg is working to develop that through its orientation, training and performance processes for those already here and for any new faculty and staff hired, Turner said.
Augsburg recently had two Social Work faculty openings and prior to starting the search, Turner and the department chair examined the whole recruitment effort. "We crafted letters that would draw people to the college as well as the department and we emphasized how candidates must be able to work with a diverse mix of students and prepare them for the client population they'll likely be working with," she said. Candidates were asked to specifically demonstrate how they had worked with a diverse student body and geared their curricula to a broad student population. "We saw significant strength in the candidate pool — and a number of the finalists were persons of color."
Support structures matter
Once non-white or underrepresented faculty arrive, institutional support is key to their success. "A lot of us are first-generation graduate students and junior faculty and we don't have an 'old boys network' to support us in the challenges we face," Park said. She is one of four Asian Americans in a department of 13 faculty and staff. "The diversity and collegiality in my department is great," she said. "That doesn't mean there haven't been challenges."
During her first all-faculty meeting in 2009, Park was taken aback when another faculty member referred to a Chinese student as "Oriental." "I was shocked that she didn't know that that word was outdated and offensive," Park said. When Park approached her afterward, her colleague apologized and the two had a great conversation, but Park knew "there's still work to be done."
She observes that some white people don't recognize their privilege and can make hurtful comments that build up over time. "I don't know how many times I've been asked how long I've been in this country, or how I happen to speak English so well," she said. She notes that the structural supports that St. Kate's has provided, such as faculty mentoring and diversity workshops (for example, the "I Wish" student presentation at the 2011 all-faculty meeting) are helpful.
Brian Bruess, vice president for enrollment management and student affairs at St. Kate's, said that the university has a long history of building a working and learning environment that reflects a diverse world. "We have taken a holistic systems approach over the years that integrates multicultural competence content into the curriculum, provides faculty and staff development, builds community partnerships, and enhances our recruiting and retaining of students, faculty and staff of color," he said. He noted that the university's strategic plan calls for continued efforts in this area.
"While the university is proud of the work we have accomplished, including significant gains in our student of color population, we are sober about the important work that remains," Bruess said.
The next chapter in campus sustainability
When campuses around the country began to commit to their own visions of sustainability several years ago, there was no road map. Since then, each of Minnesota's private colleges and universities has followed its own plan. And while some of the early steps in becoming more environmentally friendly might have been obvious, institutions' next steps vary from school to school.
We checked in with three campuses to survey what they have been up to lately and found that their efforts aren't just good for the environment — they're also saving campuses money and educating the larger community about sustainable living.
A powerful commitment to using less
When a college begins making plans to become more sustainable, using less energy and decreasing its carbon footprint are often first on a list of goals. But there are many ways to use fewer fossil fuels. Seven years ago, Carleton College in Northfield installed a wind turbine, capable of producing the equivalent of a third of the annual campus energy demand.
Now, Carleton is in the process of getting its second wind turbine up and running. This turbine will be similar in appearance and output to the first, but different in one important way — while the first turbine produced energy that was sold to Xcel Energy to serve the public grid, this turbine's output will bring power directly to campus. "Even though it's the second turbine, it's still exciting," said Martha Larson, Carleton's manager of campus energy and sustainability. "People are waiting for it."
Though the turbine is due to arrive this fall or winter, its arrival date is pending the manufacturer's production schedule. The turbine's foundation has been poured at its future site, in an agricultural parcel the college is leasing from a local farmer. The location will have a similarly favorable wind profile to the first turbine, and Larson is hoping it will be installed this fall. "For us, for our campus, this is one of the biggest impacts we can have in reducing greenhouse emissions."
Students are also taking the lead in more subtle ways to reduce waste. One such effort involves eliminating trays from a campus cafeteria — a small change that can make a big difference in the amount of food that is thrown away every day. "This is absolutely a student idea, very grassroots," Larson said.
During the 2010-11 school year, two students who worked as sustainability assistants collaborated to organize "Trayless Tuesdays," where students receive meals on a single plate rather than on a large plastic tray. The students, along with two student groups, then measured the amount of food waste produced on Tuesdays and compared it to other days, when students still took a tray that could hold several plates. They found a 20 to 25% reduction in food waste on Tuesdays, Larson said.
This year, every day will be trayless, unless students request one. Students can still go back to get as much food as they want. "Going trayless initially seems to many to be very inconvenient, but soon habits change. It reduces food waste by discouraging people from getting more food than they can eat," said Alex Lai, one of the student sustainability assistants who spearheaded the project.
Lai said the reduction in food waste last year totaled about 77 pounds of food each Tuesday. Carleton's food service company has pledged that whatever money is saved in food costs will be reinvested in the quality of offerings, so the proposition is beneficial for everyone involved, including the environment. "Considering that food and agriculture are estimated to be responsible for about 30% of the world's greenhouse gas emissions, beginning to work on food waste could have a significant impact," Lai said.
Gone to the . . . chickens?
At Macalester College, another student-led initiative aims to show the campus and community that participating in the urban chicken movement is doable. In April 2011, soon-to-be junior Leah Plummer and several other members of MULCH, a student group that focuses on sustainable food, purchased a chicken coop and six chickens after months of research and the completion of a written proposal. Since then, they've been lucky enough to get fresh eggs each day, and they'll soon be able to show the community what keeping chickens is all about.
"I see the coop as part of the rising student interest in local foods, as well as an extension of our student garden," said Suzanne Savanick Hansen, sustainability manager at Macalester. "It's an educational tool."
Savanick Hansen said the chickens aren't "production chickens," as that would require them to meet certain codes, and Plummer emphasized that "the coop isn't going to provide all of the eggs for Macalester's cafeteria anytime soon." The goal, Plummer said, "is to get as many faculty, students and staff involved as possible, and get them excited about having chickens."
Now that the coop is up and running and a "chicken care schedule" has been created so someone is always responsible for feeding the chickens and cleaning the coop, the next step is engaging the community, including local schoolchildren.
"We haven't done it yet, but we're really excited about the prospect of having kids on campus, maybe coming to the coop for a field trip," Plummer said. "The opportunities for making those connections with the community are definitely coming up."
Plummer said she and the other students responsible for proposing the coop don't see buying more chickens or making the coop larger as future goals — but she is interested in other food-related sustainability efforts, including canning her own food. She is even interested in keeping bees on campus for honey, though she hasn't proposed anything yet. "Macalester is a great place to model urban sustainable living," Plummer said.
Meanwhile, with most students gone for the summer, the chickens have garnered only positive reactions. "So far, people just love it," Savanick Hansen said. "And it's one of the few urban campus chicken coops, so it's unique."
Modeling an organic garden
As many Minnesota private college campuses have found, gardens provide more than just a nice yield of summer produce. Organic gardens are also a great way to show a community the value of eating locally and in a healthier way, according to Gretchen Harvey, a history professor at Concordia College.
"Our garden doesn't produce a ton of food, but to me its greatest value is in modeling a method of healthy food production for the campus and Moorhead community," Harvey said. "It also provides a chance for two interns to collaborate with community partners."
Harvey is currently a volunteer advisor to the interns who are working with the garden for the summer; she became involved when she joined the sustainability task force at Concordia College in the spring of 2009. Because she had an interest in gardening, she was asked to draw up a proposal for an organic garden. At the same time, Harvey was planning a senior capstone course focused on sustainability; she decided to incorporate the garden into her course, "Building Sustainable Communities Initiative: Food, Hunger and Climate Change."
The garden began in April 2010; this past spring, capstone students helped plan for and raise necessary funds to develop the garden more fully. In addition, Student Environmental Alliance, a student organization, has been supportive of the garden, doing planning and outreach work, Harvey said. Vegetables from the garden are currently sold at the campus center one day a week; what doesn't sell is donated to a local charity.
Harvey and the interns have teamed up with a local elementary school to meet their goal of the garden engaging the community. A second and third grade class has planted seedlings each year to get the garden started, and this August the kids will participate in an activity at harvest time and eat a simple meal with vegetables from the garden.
In the future, Harvey said she'd love to see the garden expand in creative ways, with everything from edible landscaping and perennials to fruit and nut trees and "vertical gardening" — and she hopes that the garden will foster more community partnerships. "First and foremost, it's a teaching garden. It's all about responsible engagement and stewardship," Harvey said.
- A workout video posted by St. Olaf College student Adam Starr '12, was picked up by CBS and HuffPost, and featured on KARE 11 and Good Morning America. The video shows Starr, who lost a leg to cancer in 2009, doing back flips during his first visit to a gym since the operation.
- Dr. William Craft began his duties as the 11th president of Concordia College, Moorhead, July 11. He succeeds Interim President Paul Dovre, who led the college for a year after the unexpected death of President Pamela Jolicoeur. Previously, Craft served as vice president for academic affairs and dean at Luther College.
- St. Catherine University is one of four institutions receiving the 2011 Lee Noel — Randi Levitz Retention Excellence Award, a national award recognizing innovative campus retention programs. The award will be presented to the university's Office of Multicultural and International Programs and Services for the Peer Mentor Program.
- The Facts/2011 presents the latest facts about the Council's 17 members. It includes information about our students, degrees, access, impact and more. Order or download the brochure or find the facts online.
- Rand Park started in late June as our new vice president of development. Rand is looking forward to working with the broader business community as we strategize on expanding business and foundation support for the Fund.
- Lindsey Alexander, a consultant working with the Citizen's League on its higher education reform project, is featured on the LearnmoreMN blog this month. Read her post, "This way or the highway," and consider joining the conversation by adding your comment. Julie Plaut, executive director of Campus Compact, will be blogging in August.
- A summer of community service projects is currently underway for the 2010-12 group of Phillips Scholars. The student-designed projects are focused on a range of communities and goals, from teaching kids and the developmentally disabled how to lead healthier lifestyles to empowering young Latinas to learn about higher education opportunities.