What MN private-college presidents discussed at their retreat

If you follow Twitter, you may have noticed that the Minnesota Private College Council held its annual retreat in Chaska on Thursday.

There, the presidents of its private colleges had a chance to meet with Gov. Mark Dayton, University of Minnesota President Eric Kaler and Minnesota State Colleges and Universities (MnSCU) system Chancellor Steven Rosenstone.

I caught up afterward with the council’s chairwoman, College of Saint Benedict President MaryAnn Baenninger, to get an idea of what was discussed.

The upshot: Among other things, the leaders talked about how the institutions could work more closely together to reduce duplication and help each other out.

From the way Baenninger talked, it sounded like they were just kicking around ideas. I’m not sure how far those will go, but they’re food for thought.

Here’s one on how to reduce overlap in programming:

“It’s not inconceivable that you could have public-private consortia of faculty around disciplines that would be too cumbersome for one institution to take on. Suppose we had a dramatic workforce need in a technological area where one private institution could provide some part of the coursework … and a local MnSCU system or university campus close by could provide part of it. Can’t we partner that way? Right now, there are duplications that might not be optimal.”

As an example:

“We (at St. Ben’s) don’t have an engineering program. But a student can come to the College of St. Benedict and St. John’s University and can enroll in a 5-year engineering program where they do their first part of the work here and get a liberal arts degree, and then continue at a public university and get an engineering degree. That’s a very common practice that’s done … all over the country between liberal arts colleges and engineering schools.”

She said the presidents also saw ways to help each other in the market for faculty:

“In a tight market for jobs for new Ph.D.s, could we form a relationship where there’s communication about what new Ph.D.s are graduating from the University of Minnesota who need experience teaching at the undergrad level? And are there courses or classrooms where our undergraduate students could benefit from having those new Ph.D.s as teaching fellows?”

So how special was the presence of the governor and the leaders of MnSCU and the U?. After all, the council has hosted those leaders in the past, and met with them individually as opposed to holding a round-table discussion.

Baenninger told me:

“We have these conversations each year. This (year’s) was notable in that there was a new governor, there was a new chancellor, and there was a new president of the University of Minnesota. And so we haven’t had the conversation in the same way, just by virtue of the opportunity (that exists) when you have fresh perspective coming on at the same time. This felt like a forward-looking conversation more so than previously.”