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Minnesota State University, Mankato
Minnesota State University, Mankato

Sustaining Excellence

Page address: https://grad.mnsu.edu/research/magazine/doc2007/sustainingExcellence.html

Sustaining Excellence

Interim Dean of Graduate Studies and Research Anne Blackhurst Reflects on How Minnesota State University, Mankato is Creating an Environment Where Scholarly Excellence Thrives

Anne Blackhurst

Anne Blackhurst
Dean of Graduate Studies

Over the past year, I've realized I had only a vague idea of what to expect when I agreed to serve as Interim Dean of Graduate Studies and Research. Of course, I anticipated the meetings and the paperwork. I knew I would need to familiarize myself with policies and procedures to which I'd given only cursory attention as a faculty member. I understood I would need a crash course in the day–to–day operations of the Graduate Studies office. And I was prepared to trade my independent faculty lifestyle for the more structured schedule of an administrator.

Something quite unexpected, however, has turned out to be the most rewarding aspect of my new role: the opportunity to gain an institutional perspective on the quantity and quality of faculty research conducted on our campus. As a faculty member, I enjoyed occasional glimpses of this quality in my role as chair of the Faculty Improvement Grant and Sabbatical Committee and as a participant in the selection process for the Douglas Moore Lectureship. Inevitably, I came away from such experiences feeling impressed with the range of interesting and creative ideas pursued by our faculty and the obvious passion that fueled these pursuits. But I couldn't have predicted how impressed—no, how inspired—I would be by the cumulative evidence of our faculty's commitment to excellence in scholarly and creative endeavors.

This commitment to excellence is evident in the hundreds of IRB proposals submitted to the College of Graduate Studies and Research each semester, as well as in the theses and capstone projects produced by graduate students under the tutelage of their faculty mentors. It was also apparent in the Teaching Scholar presentations I attended in November, which showcased the creativity and innovation of ten exceptional (and yet, I suspect, fairly typical) Minnesota State Mankato faculty members. The passion for excellence is obvious in the dozens of grant proposals reviewed by the Faculty Research Committee each year, and it's visible in the proposals for external funding I sign nearly every day—proposals that have resulted in dollars from the National Science Foundation, the National Endowment for the Humanities, the National Institutes of Health, the National Endowment for the Arts, and the Departments of Education and Housing and Urban Development. Finally, the mark of excellence is unmistakable in the projects featured in this issue of TOMORROW, including the list of scholarly works published, produced, or exhibited during the past year.

In short, the evidence is clear: Individually and collectively, faculty members at Minnesota State Mankato are dedicated to the pursuit of excellence in scholarship and research. For its part, the University has endeavored to create an environment in which that excellence can both flourish and be sustained.

The most recent example is the creation of a center specifically designed to nurture and support excellence in scholarly and creative activity. Funded through the University's Strategic Priority Initiative process, the Center for Excellence in Scholarship and Research (CESR) officially opened in January 2007. Dr. David Haglin, the inaugural director, is responsible for working with faculty across campus to support scholarly and creative activity in all its forms. While Dr. Haglin will put his own distinctive mark on the center, anticipated activities and initiatives include developing and nurturing communities of scholars, providing programs and services to promote faculty scholarship and publication, developing and promoting forums for faculty and students to showcase their scholarly work, providing technical support for faculty and providing recognition for the scholarly accomplishments of faculty and students.

Just as our faculty's passion for scholarly excellence is clear, the creation of CESR is a clear indicator of institutional support for research and creative activity. It is also a step toward ensuring that the excellence I witness every day receives the exposure and recognition it warrants, both on and off campus. Join me in celebrating our faculty's accomplishments and the tangible evidence of our commitment to sustaining excellence.