February 2014 newsletter
The university library is changing. Gone are the days of librarians whispering “shhhh” to noisy visitors. Gone are dusty books and lengthy search efforts. Libraries are tweeting, pinning and posting on Facebook. Welcome to the library of the digital age; always a meeting place but now boasting coffee shops, yoga classes and the latest in technology.
At the Fitzgerald Library on the Saint Mary’s University Winona campus, most students are still using the library in the traditional sense — checking out books and doing research. But the library has become much more than that. “The library really is a gathering place for students. And not just to study,” said Laura Oanes, library director. “We have also noticed that students may want to work independently but not have their space be totally quiet. We have changed workspaces to accommodate that need and created more open spaces while maintaining a quiet floor as well.”
Saint Mary’s library implemented a search function called OneSearch, a search engine that brings up results from all academic areas — rather than forcing students to do separate searches for each area. “Many of our students do rely on the print books but they also make strong use of our online database subscriptions for journal access,” said Oanes. “OneSearch is familiar to students because the search function is much like Google. Students often think that they can just get their research information from the web, but they don't realize that it may not be accurate or complete. Our information resources are free and reliable." To help students learn about all these resources and features available, librarians give instruction in various classes in how to best use the library.
At Bethany Lutheran College’s Memorial Library, students can chat with a librarian about a research project or even check out sports equipment like snowshoes, tennis racquets and Frisbees. “There is a social aspect to the library. We do have the coffee bar and an area where students can relax before and after class,” said Alyssa Inniger, electronics resources and reference librarian. The library maintains a Facebook page which it updates weekly with links to interesting articles, campus events, historical items and changes in hours.
But it is also a place for serious study. Bethany’s library recently instituted a new search function called Summon, similar to the Saint Mary's system. “Since our students are tech- savvy, they want those e-resources,” said Ramsey Turner, coordinator of circulation and interlibrary loan. “Students can access Summon both on and off campus, enter their search criteria and get results right away.”
Collaborating for the future
While their libraries have been partnering on various levels since 2003, Carleton College and St. Olaf College have taken that collaboration to the next level. The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation recently awarded the two colleges a $1.4 million grant to support increased institutional collaboration in library services, information technology, management operations and academic programs.
“We will work to make the user library experience the same on both campuses including similar signage,” said Brad Schaffner, college librarian at Carleton College. “With the grant, we will develop a research portal so that all students start on the same interactive webpage that provides enhanced access to library resources.”
The collaboration will allow the two libraries not only to implement a next generation library management system and the new research portal but also allow the libraries to share staff through joint organizational structures.
“We are working to align our library processes and procedures and can already help each other process interlibrary requests for either campus. It is all done virtually through computers and no other school does this,” Schaffner said. “But it is a cultural shift and has been very successful. And because we do work so closely together, we remind staff that changes, no matter how small, will affect both libraries.”
And student reaction to the collaboration? “Students just assume the libraries collaborate,” said Roberta Lembke, St. Olaf director of IT and libraries. “One way we gauge the success of our collaboration is that it isn’t very visible. That it truly is a seamless experience for our patrons.”
“Really the two libraries have worked together for years,” Schaffner added. “The Mellon Grant really expanded the opportunities to make it easier all around as the culture of collaboration grows. Most libraries will have to go down this path to support the needs of their institutions and overall rising costs.”
Many families with middle schoolers have questions about how they should start thinking about college. They want to know how to plan, prepare and finance their child’s education. With the Council’s newly created web pages, parents can begin to answer some of those questions.
For some parents, middle school may seem way too early to begin thinking about college. But according to a 2010 public opinion survey conducted by Hardwick Day, 93% of Minnesota middle school parents said it was important for them to help their children start preparing for college. And according to a 2008 ACT study, The Forgotten Middle, middle school may be the best time to build college readiness, access and success.
That conclusion was also echoed by Laura Ritter, a college counselor at Robbinsdale Cooper High School. “One thing we always have a difficult time with when we visit the middle schools is that many of those students think middle school doesn’t count for anything,” she said. “But in reality, how you do in middle school impacts what courses you take in high school.” Ritter pointed out that this was especially true for math classes — math class choice and performance affects which math a student is placed in high school. And taking challenging classes in middle school can be a prerequisite for getting into honors, AP (Advanced Placement) or IB (International Baccalaureate) classes.
Tim Parke-Reimer, a software quality assurance analyst in St. Paul and father of two, understands the long-term impact of middle school. “For my eighth grader, I am helping her understand what classes will be good to complete in order to gain admission to a four-year college,” he said.
As Miriam Bungert, a current high school teacher and mother to a middle-schooler explains, college readiness is a real concern for many parents but so is choosing the right high school. “As the parent of a seventh-grade student in Richfield, I am thinking of what is the best choice for high school,” Bungert said. “The high school decision is a game-changer for my son and I believe it could completely determine his fate — and that decision will help us think about college realistically.”
Thinking through the finances
“As a single parent, I am also quite concerned about the financial toll of college tuition on our family and our quality of life,” added Bungert. Financial planning is a real concern for many parents — 61% of respondents to a survey conducted by the Minnesota Center for Survey Research stated that finances are the biggest obstacle keeping students from earning more education.
“We work really hard to get the message to parents and students that they can afford college and that financial aid is available,” Ritter said. “We tell students to work hard in their classes and apply for that financial aid. College really is a viable option.”
These new website pages will offer guidance and support to parents like Bungert and Parke-Reimer with tips on how to start thinking about their student’s interests and talents and how they might translate into a college major. Most importantly, parents are reminded that it is never too early to save for college.
“Right now, the thinking I am doing around college for my middle-schooler is financial — putting money away in a 529 account,” said Parke-Reimer. “Also, at home college gets talked about in a casual way as the expected path after high school.”
When universities offer master’s degrees, they help students get ahead in their careers while ensuring employers find candidates with the advanced skills they seek. After years of focusing on meeting market needs for this kind of post-baccalaureate education, Minnesota Private College Council (MPCC) institutions award more master’s degrees than either of the two public university systems.
Minnesota’s reputation for prioritizing education helps attract and retain people and employers — and master’s degree programs strengthen the education level of our workforce, which is so important in today’s economy, noted Sue Huber, provost at the University of St. Thomas.
St. Thomas is one of 11 MPCC institutions offering master’s degrees. After starting in 1950 with its first graduate education program — a master’s in education — St. Thomas now offers 63 different graduate programs in seven different schools. Change has been a constant in master’s education; St. Thomas for example started its first two fully online master’s programs this academic year. “We listen to what employers say they want, we’re responding to their needs and working hand in hand with them,” Huber said. “We want students to graduate to something. If we didn’t offer programs that relate to what employers need, students would really be out of the running.”
Career advancement is the top reason students enroll in master’s programs, Huber said. Students need considerable drive and curiosity to be able to succeed in these programs, which are often pursued by students who are balancing careers and family obligations.
While MPCC members awarded 41% of the state's 10,324 master’s degrees, in many disciplines the share of degrees was much higher. For example, our institutions awarded 100% of library sciences degrees, 53% of homeland security/law enforcement degrees, 53% of public administration degrees, 52% of education degrees and 48% of business degrees.
“I think the nonprofit colleges are very focused on teaching and relationship building with students, along with personal engagement and networking,” Huber said.
The average net price for first-year, full-time dependent students at our institutions whose families had incomes of less than $50,000, was just over $5,300 in 2011-12 (the most recent year for which data are available).
- The College of Saint Benedict now has a passive solar greenhouse on its campus. The Full Circle Greenhouse will grow spinach, carrots, radishes, lettuce, sprouts and possibly kale, with the produce being sold to McGlynn's, a sports-themed eatery on CSB’s campus.
- A major gift from the family of St. Olaf College Board of Regents Chair B. Kristine Olson Johnson ’73 will give more St. Olaf students the opportunity to take part in high-impact learning experiences and pursue their post-graduation goals.
- For the third year in a row, The Record, the student newspaper at the College of Saint Benedict and Saint John's University, captured Best of Show for a four-year weekly newspaper at the Associated Collegiate Press Best of the Midwest Conference.
- Bethel University recently purchased a 200,000-square-foot building at 2 Pine Tree Drive in Arden Hills. The property is a campus-like setting located a little more than one mile from Bethel’s main campus and includes 42 acres of land and 777 surface level parking spots.
- The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation has awarded Carleton College a $420,000 grant to continue the college's Mellon Mays Undergraduate Fellowship program. The Mellon Mays program fosters undergraduate and graduate educations of talented students belonging to underrepresented populations in the American humanities professoriate. The grant runs through October 2017.
- Gustavus Adolphus College will host its 19th annual Building Bridges Conference Saturday, March 8. This year's conference is titled "Disposable Communities? Demanding Environmental Justice" and will feature keynote speakers Van Jones and Alexie Torres-Fleming. Tickets are available online at gustavustickets.com.
- Augsburg College will host His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama for the Nobel Peace Prize Forum March 1 and for the Tibetan New Year on March 2.
- Hamline University named Jean Holloway as the new dean of the Hamline School of Law. Holloway is the first female dean at Hamline Law and, among other duties, will oversee strategic direction to the school’s academic and related programs, lead its recruitment and retention efforts, and lead its fundraising efforts.
- Concordia University, St. Paul recorded a spring 2014 enrollment total of 3,652 students, marking the largest semester total in Concordia’s 120-year history. That figure eclipses the previous record of 3,632 established in fall 2013.
- The Associated Colleges of the Twin Cities (ACTC) has announced a new office, logo and website. A consortium of private colleges, ACTC facilitates shared programs and services among its five member institutions: Augsburg College, Hamline University, Macalester College, St. Catherine University and the University of St. Thomas.
- Adrienne Diercks, executive director at Project SUCCESS, is featured on the LearnmoreMN blog this month. Read her latest post, “Engaging students in the college visit experience” and consider joining the conversation by adding your comment.
- Find it hard to keep up with higher education news? Here are a few recent articles worth reading:
- Going To College May Cost You, But So Will Skipping It, NPR, Feb. 12, 2014
- Ready or Not, Change is Coming, Inside Higher Education, Feb. 11, 2014
- Reopening an Employment Door to the Young, New York Times, Feb. 1, 2014
- A smart emphasis on college for low-income students, Minneapolis Star Tribune, Jan. 27, 2014