CROOKSTON, Minn.-Recently hired leaders at the University of Minnesota-Crookston are ready to stop planning and start putting words into action to make an impact on prospective students and the region as a whole.
John Hoffman, who was named the school's vice chancellor for academics and student affairs this summer, has been working with the university for about three months. Mary Holz-Clause has been chancellor of the school for more than a year.
Hoffman and Holz-Clause followed similar paths, both from western Iowa. Each spent time in the California State University System before eventually making their way back to the Midwest at the UMC.
With a full year under her belt, Holz-Clause said she believes things are going very well at the university. During her first year, she spent a lot of time listening to others' stories and learning about the customs and culture of the institution.
"I spent many, many, many hours in focus groups, asking questions and trying to understand what the region wants and needs," she said.
Holz-Clause said she had numerous listening sessions with different employers across the region, as well as talking to students about what they want from their education.
After spending about a year listening to and learning from others, Holz-Clause said now is the time for action.
From a prospective student perspective, Holz-Clause said they want to consider the "whole student experience" from the time they first interacts with the school to the time they hopefully enroll in the university.
"We recognize that with all students, the conversation about preparing yourself for higher education needs to start (earlier)," she said. "We are starting to work a little more closely now with different pathways for students."
Being prepared for college doesn't mean a student is simply deciding what to major in when he or she is a senior in high school. It's important for a student to have a solid background first in order to be successful in higher education, Holz-Clause said. Those conversations and pathways have to start at a young age.
The school's mission as the state's land grant university also is key, she said.
"We need to be here for the region. We need to be here for all of our citizens and really be a resource to provide what the university can offer to help," Holz-Clause said, noting the university is listening to people about what the needs are in the region and how the university can help.
UMC has made "bold moves" in the past, Hoffman noted, including making the transition from a high school to a college, moving from a two-year to a four-year institution and becoming the first university in the world to provide each student with a laptop. Now it's time for the school to make bold moves again, he said.
The pathways the school wants to develop need to be targeted and aligned with the trends that are going on in the region, Hoffman said.
Oftentimes higher education institutions can fall into a pattern of "analysis paralysis" and constant planning, Hoffman said. Institutions can get so stuck in this pattern that they forget to implement strategies, Hoffman said.
"It's so rewarding to be in a place where we're actually doing, where we're working on putting those plans and the data into action," he said.