It’s safe to say that, from a statistical standpoint, St. Cloud State has been in decline since the 2010 academic year. At the end of AY2010 FYE enrollment was 15,096. Without a change of direction, it won’t take more than 3 additional years before FYE enrollment will dip below 10,000. Community leaders and politicians that aren’t working to fix this crisis are part of the problem.

While they’re part of the problem, they aren’t the heart of the problem. They’re merely enablers. The decision-makers are the heart of the problem. What’s required is leadership and commitment to a rebuilding plan. The past 2 administrations, including the soon-to-be former administration, have managed St. Cloud State’s decline. Too much time was spent on rebranding. Not enough time was spent rebuilding. The University needs a culture change. This post is about identifying the leader that will bring about that change and his plan.

The leader’s name is John Palmer and this is part of his plan:

Place the top priority on teaching by having all Minnesota State Administrators and Minnesota State University Administrative & Academic Support Faculty teach at least one three credit class during the academic year, thus reducing the use of overload assignments and adjunct faculty. Minimize the use of reassignment for IFO Faculty to reflect teaching as the top priority of the University. Use the salary and fringe benefit savings from the two previous actions to close the gap between revenue and expense.

Closing the gap between revenue and expense is an important action but more import to the reversal of declining enrollment is the visible and promoted top priority effort on teaching and course availability. Actions will speak louder than words but it will be important to let prospective students know that SCSU has changed course and that teaching and learning is the University’s highest priority.

Use the occasion of the 150th anniversary of SCSU’s founding as the launch of the next decade of service and grow for the Normal School (emphasis on teaching) that grew up to be a University. Show the Red and Black at every High School and Community College within a 90 mile radius of St. Cloud by having the President and Provost visit each school and college twice a year. These visits will include interaction with students, teachers, staff and administrators. The visits will be in addition to regular recruiting activities of the office of Admissions staff.

Reduce international travel by faculty, staff and administrators. Reduce in and out of state travel by faculty, staff and administrators, too. Substitute electronic communication and smaller delegations for international travel. This should be done consistent with the priority given to teaching. This is another example where actions will speak louder than words.

Finally and most importantly, the new president deserves the opportunity to put their team in place. They shouldn’t have to worry about a collection of people who may not have primary allegiance to the University. To operationalize the creation of a team of leaders with primary allegiance to the future of the University, each at will employee will tender their resignation effective the day the new president begins employment thus allowing the new president the opportunity to pick their team.

This is what leadership looks like. Dr. Palmer isn’t interested in managing St. Cloud State’s financial and educational decline. Instead, he’s interested in rebuilding the University he invested 39 years of his life to.

In the past, administrations spent too much money on rebranding the University. That’s just putting lipstick on the same ugly pig. Rebuilding the University is required so students and parents know that St. Cloud State places a higher priority on teaching and educating than it puts on diversity.

It isn’t that diversity is a bad thing. It’s that touting the University’s diversity while enrollment declines is a bad thing.

The search committee can shut down. That’s partially because it isn’t likely that they’ll find anyone qualified that’s interested in this job. Dr. Palmer isn’t just qualified. He’s interested, too.

It’s time to turn this ship around.

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