The work is worth it!


I grew up on a small farm in northern Minnesota, attended a technical college, community college, university and to this day continue to learn through formal and informal approaches to education. Thank goodness someone in the ‘80’s determined that building higher education partnerships for students to transition from one goal to the next was important.

Educational institutions have been using the phrase “partner” and working through what a partnership means for several years. The vision and mission of k-12 partnerships may look and feel different than a higher education partnership, or they may look similar to k-12. Identifying why a partnership is sought, what the benefits will be, who the target benefit group is, transitions the discussion to how we achieve and maintain the relationship.

The term relationship within a partnership is intentional. Over my career I have participated in the establishing, maintaining, and dissolution of institutional partnerships. The primary reasons for establishing a closer relationship is related to the needs and mission, and occasionally funding. Maintaining the partnership is hard work and relies on nurturing and being present for difficult discussions as well as celebrating successes. Dissolution tends to be based on one or both sides taking the partnership for granted, and a change in philosophy toward what it takes to maintain. The change in philosophy is almost always about funding and not needs or mission.

Over the past week I have been visiting with colleagues from educational institutions across the state, hearing about their partnership experiences. Aligning curriculum goals through initiation of an articulation agreement has been the launch of a partnership. When done well maintaining and nurturing the relationship has included frequent interaction between staff, faculty, administration, and students. Not annual or twice a year but frequent (monthly) interactions of one or more of these groups engaging with students to facilitate the process, faculty to ensure curriculum goals are aligned, staff to address student life needs, and administration to role model and demonstrate the importance of the ongoing relationship between the institutions.

A lot of work, absolutely! Worth it?? When you hear the student stories about where they started and how they transitioned to achieve their career dreams – then you know… it was all worth it! This short segment started with my story – technical college (’87), community college (‘88), and university (’90, ‘03, ’07). Indeed, worth it for me!


A room full of girls!

Nothing better than a room full of Girl Scouts!

I was honored to welcome the Girl Scouts ConnectZ program this week. This event, organized by HealthForce Minnesota, brought a unique opportunity for over 200 girls to explore unique careers in Rochester, Metro, and Mankato ( Great opportunity for a group of diverse teen girls to explore health careers. Misun (my partner in the “Over the Edge” challenge) organized this exceptional event and reminded both of us why we are raising money for girls in our region. Check out these wonderful photos and give us a donation!

Why I do what I do….


LGR 2016, there I am on the ropes course 🙂

“Each of you are here for a reason, thank you for supporting me and my education” stated humbly with sincere conviction by my nephew as he addressed family, friends and supporters at the small graduation celebration hosted by his parents. Yes, we were all there for a reason – we all believed in our nephew, we believed in his ability to achieve in life, and we believed that, fundamentally, education was the path to a bright future. He had knocked it out of the park with his education, taking advantage of each opportunity he was presented. His support network were, and remains, exceptional. The future is bright!

Then I started thinking, this IS why I do what I do each day. I am humbled and honored to witness and facilitate the greatness in others. Over the past several weeks my work has included collaborating with colleagues and the community to finalize a lease for downtown space (YES!!! Signing is happening!), updating and instituting a recruitment and admissions calendar for adult learners, collaborating with graduate faculty and staff to identify better processes for students, staff and students, and “graduating” from the Leadership Greater Rochester (LGR). Each of these activities are part of a larger process. Seldom an ending, frequently a deepening of relationships with professionals who care deeply for students and others in the community. Is this a dream? No, it is a privilege.

Today, I am thankful to my quality colleagues, the great work we do together, and the exceptionally bright future of students everywhere. We are gifted with the honor to empower individuals to achieve their dreams through quality public higher education!

The Goofy Blue Orangutan


It is 2 a.m. and a soft voice whispers to the camp counselor “my tummy hurts”. The young camper is clearly upset and didn’t want to wake up her camp counselor – however her tummy hurt. The counselor and camper got dressed and walked from their camp site to the health center. Once settled into a bunk I asked where it hurt, if she had to go to the bathroom, what she ate that day, and then the most important question “what does your mom do when your tummy hurts”?

The timid answer comes back “she sits with me until I go to sleep and let’s me sleep with her pillow”. Oh, we have that kind of “tummy ache”. I ask if she might feel better if I sit with her until she falls to sleep. “Oh, yes!” She replies with some exuberance. “I don’t have your moms pillow, however, I have a friend who really likes to snuggle” – out comes the stuffed blue orangutan. The camper looks at this crazy creation and says she would like to try to sleep with the stuffed friend.

I was always amazed how my goofy blue orangutan could cure a variety of situations while I continued to assess and monitor campers. This camper did well the rest of the week, just knowing that we could help her make it through the nights early in the week at Girl Scout Camp.

The morals of the story: “Trust the mom factor” (Happy Mother’s Day); Girl Scout camps build confidence in campers; and NEVER underestimate the power of a goofy blue orangutan!

Help me help the Girl Scout camp as I rappel 8 stories in June for the local camp!

You have come a long way….

“I remember riding the bus with you when I first started school”. Really? That was a LONG time ago. “I remember you being able to sit in the back of the bus, and I was too young to sit with the big kids”.

This discussion happened in front of a group of thirty nurses assistant students. We were introducing ourselves and Christy was the new faculty who would co-teach the course with me. I don’t remember my response, however I was thinking – wow! I am getting old! In retrospect, it was a great semester and she was an exceptional co-leader of the course. She taught me many valuable lessons over the years based on her unique experiences, and ways to engage and support those I supervise (much later I was honored to be her Dean).

How does this story fit with today? Well, today I was honored to see her earn her doctorate. She has come a long way, and taught many as she transitioned from one teaching role to the next. Her leadership skills and engaging style are just the beginning. From the school bus to her doctorate… Lucky me to witness her formal education successes.

The day was filled with many heartwarming stories. Overall, I attended 4 hooding ceremonies for masters and doctoral graduates at Winona State University. The graduates, faculty, staff, friends and family were filled with joy. Smiles overwhelmed the campus, with a few tears of joy shared between loved ones. Indeed, this is the culmination of much work by everyone. Graduates have earned their degrees, faculty and staff have guided, counseled and encouraged the very best from those they worked with over several semesters. Congratulations to everyone.

Indeed, you have all come a long way. Thank you for sharing part of your journey with us and keep on growing, and smiling!

A May Day Message

Happy May Day!

Each year I celebrate the ending of spring semester on the first day of May. Flowers are a great way to celebrate the transition to summer. And summer is the BEST in Minnesota!! This year I have added to my personal summer challenge list to hike 4 trails new to me – preferably in state parks. We may venture into Wisconsin or Iowa – however, Minnesota has a lot to offer – so….. bring on the great weather!!

Thank you for being a part of my first year at WSU- Rochester and please join me with a summer-time challenge of your own. Enjoy the weather, nature, and the great folks around you each day.

Happy May Day!


It’s The Most Wonderful Time Of The Year

This is my favorite time of year, commencement season! I start humming “Pomp and Circumstances” on May 1st and continue the merriment through the month. Students are thrilled to see the completion of one dream and excited to embark on their next life challenge. Faculty recall the earlier version of students who have grown into bright and accomplished graduates. Friends, family, and colleagues all celebrate the accomplishments of the new graduates with tears of joy, whoops of elation, and even a hug or two.

Commencement is the celebration and completion of one journey and the beginning of another. Transitioning to a new life filled with coworkers instead of classmates, a supervisor instead of an instructor, and deadlines instead of assignment due dates can be anxiety producing. Even the lack of homework translates into a dilemma of time management and involvement. With so much time, what should I dedicate my “homework” time to now? Is it time to reconnect with your family, time to identify volunteer activities, or time to explore a new pastime. Encourage patience and thoughtful consideration to “filling” the time. Taking time to adjust to a new life tempo and the support of family and friends will be key to transition from school to the future.

Enjoy the celebration and join me in humming a happy tune!