As another academic year comes to a close, we have much to reflect on and much to be proud of.
I’m proud to share with you that we again exceeded the performances of all other state colleges and universities in every category of the Minnesota State Dashboard, which assesses our outcomes in student retention, graduation rates, licensure exam pass rates, and so on. Our continued success demonstrates what I already know to be true—we truly value students and strive to create a great learning environment, one that is rigorous and challenging whilst welcoming and inclusive.
I’m proud to share with you our Values Statement on Free Speech and Academic Freedom. One of the hallmarks of WSU is our ability to engage tough issues while maintaining community, and this statement—developed by the Commission on Free Speech and Academic Freedom and reviewed by our shared governance system—will guide us as we navigate contentious campus issues and invite inquiry into our classrooms.
I’m proud to share with you that students active in our American Democracy Project led us again to winning the Minnesota Ballot Bowl, which means WSU registered more students to vote, and registered a larger percentage of students to vote, than any other institution in its category of public institutions. In this season of student accolades and awards—the Evening of Distinction, the Student Leadership Awards, the “WESPYs,” the Ramaley Research Symposium, and too many club and department awards to name—we are humbled by the excellence our students exhibit, nurtured by our faculty and staff.
Yet despite our successes, there is still much work to do.
We continue to find a persistent gap in the opportunities for our students of color compared to the general student population. We need to adapt our systems to reflect what Minnesota will look like in the future. Our future students’ needs have changed and will continue to change.
Our Campus Climate Survey helped us learn more about how members of our community experience Winona State and identified three specific areas for improvement—sense of belonging, unwanted sexual contact, and civility/respect. Our ongoing work in these areas will help us continue to build a more welcoming and inclusive campus climate.
On a greater scale, our university mission—a community of learners improving our world—has never been more important. Horrific inhumanity in Sri Lanka, Australia, California, Colorado, and elsewhere teaches us that the world needs more of what we provide, including understanding, community, and respect. We do a better job of embodying our mission than any other institution I know, and it is my hope that all WSU graduates continue to model our mission wherever they may go in this world.
As we prepare to welcome the Class of 2019, let’s turn our thoughts to the future with hope and expectation that still brighter days lie ahead for us all. Let’s dream of further glories, of greatness yet to be, and of future generations whose own dreams will be fulfilled through our work and through the beacon of learning that is Winona State University.
Scott R. Olson