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Cali Owings, Published April 01 2014

University presidential candidate Blackhurst imagines MSUM in 2024

MOORHEAD – To share her vision for Minnesota State University Moorhead, Provost Anne Blackhurst, one of three finalists to be the school’s next president, asked the audience to fast-forward 10 years.

In her presentation to the public Tuesday afternoon as part of the presidential search process, Blackhurst gave a speech as if it was 2024 highlighting the changes a decade under her leadership as president would bring.

In Blackhurst’s imagined future for the university, she said MSUM would have reached higher enrollment targets, increased its diversity, grown its endowment and offered incentives for excellent performance. But most of all, she pointed to a cultural shift that would ignite members of the campus community to share their passion and pride for the school and inspire others to support it.

After her presentation, Blackhurst told the attendees it was “perhaps a little audacious” to speak as though she was already president for 10 years but said it helped her convey her vision for the university.

“Even though you’ve viewed me in the role as provost in the past few years and that role is one that is somewhat in the shadows of the president, I can step out of those shadows,” she said. “I can speak passionately about the university. I can be bold and audacious when I need to be.”

Blackhurst said she also took that approach because she wanted to show that she sees herself making a long-term commitment to the school.

“I believe important change, especially cultural change, only occurs with steady, sustained leadership,” she said.

Enrollment issues

A few in attendance pressed Blackhurst on her goal of 7,500 students on campus by 2024. Enrollment at the college has declined by about 11.4 percent since 2009 with about 6,620 students enrolled this fall.

While Blackhurst said she sees some strategy-driven enrollment increases, such as more graduate students, exclusively online students and transfer students, she said changing the campus culture will also help boost enrollment.

“If we develop the kind of campus culture I was talking about, enrollment will come to us,” she said. “If we have that enthusiasm, that pride, that passion I was talking about, our students will be our best ambassadors.”

The remaining two candidates, Sam Minner and Carlos Vargas-Aburto, will visit campus today and Friday, respectively, and also give public presentations. Those who attend the forums or watch them online will be asked to evaluate candidates. Responses will be sent directly to the chancellor’s office.

Steven Rosenstone, chancellor for the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities System, is scheduled to make his recommendation to the board of trustees April 23.

If you go

What: Remaining presidential candidate forums

When: 1 to 2 p.m. today for Sam Minner and Friday for Carlos Vargas-Aburto

Where: Gaede Stage, Center for the Arts

Info: Those unable to attend the public forums can watch them live using this link: www.mnstate.edu/presidential-search/live.aspx

Readers can reach Forum reporter Cali Owings at (701) 241-5599