Monday Minute, March 21, 2011

Dear Colleagues,

The Provost's office has released the report, "Achieving Excellence: Academic Strategic Positioning 2005-10," which tracks the remarkable improvement that has occurred across the University over the last five years. The report mentions the College of Design in several places, referring to our initiation of a product design graduate minor and a digital fabrication lab (p. 17), our development of a human factors and ergonomics graduate program (p.19), our participation in the Imagine Fund (p. 32), and our founding as a college (p. 36). A fisheye photo of the Rapson Hall court in the frontispiece also conveys the energy of this place.

The gains we have made as an institution should make us all proud. With 77 programs in the top 25 nationally; with research expenditures the 8th highest in the nation; with honors students' ACT scores above those at Amherst, Carleton, and Stanford; and with the number of national merit scholars putting us at the top of the Big Ten - such statistics show that strategic positioning has succeeded in raising the University's standing. And students have noticed as well, with rising application numbers making us the third most competitive institution of higher education in Minnesota, right behind Carlton and Macalester.

Even more remarkable about the data is that the University managed to do this in the midst of an historic decline in state support. As President Bruininks noted, the current House proposal to cut our funding $229 million on top of the $190 million cut in the last biennium, "rolls our state support back to levels not seen since before 1998." That the University improved its quality despite these reductions might suggest to some legislators that we didn't need the money, but that isn't the case. Instead it shows our determination, despite the cuts, to maintain the quality of this University, upon which Minnesota's economic vitality and quality of life depend. If the state wants students and their families to pay more for that quality by forcing tuition increases, then that is an issue the citizens of Minnesota need to take up with elected officials. Our responsibility, as a University, is to continue to do our work as efficiently and effectively as possible, as the Provost's report makes amply evident.