MnSCU board set to name system's next chancellor

Steven Rosenstone
Steven Rosenstone, right, talks with a member of the board of trustees of MnSCU after a public job interview on Tuesday, Feb. 1, 2011. Rosenstone is vice president of cultural and scholarly affairs at the University of Minnesota and is one of two finalists for MnSCU's chancellor job.
MPR Photo/Tim Post

The Board of Trustees of Minnesota State Colleges and Universities is scheduled to pick the system's next chancellor at a meeting Wednesday afternoon. The choice comes after two days of public interviews with the candidates.

In a series of job interviews Tuesday, the two finalists discussed their visions for the future of MnSCU.

Candidate Steven Rosenstone came to Minnesota 15 years ago. After rising up through the academic ranks at Yale University and the University of Michigan, he became the dean of the university's college of liberal arts. He's now the vice president of scholarly and cultural affairs at the university.

William Sederburg is Utah's commissioner of higher education. A decade ago, the Minnesota native was also a finalist for MnSCU's chancellor position. He didn't get the job then, it went instead to James McCormick, who's stepping down this summer.

In a public interview with a small group of MnSCU board members, Sederburg said now he's come back with more experience under his belt.

"I wasn't ready for this 10 years ago like I am today. The experience base is quite different."

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Since his last try at MnSCU's top job, Sederburg has run an eight college system in Utah. By comparison the MnSCU system consists of 32 schools spread out over 54 campuses. Sederburg also served as president of a two-year college in Utah that was transformed into to a four-year university.

Sederburg said he thinks his political experience could come in handy as well. He was a state senator in Michigan from 1978 to 1991. He said he believes the next MnSCU leader should have a good relationship with the governor.

"Key legislative leaders play into that. Key educational leaders ... I think whoever is chancellor needs to sit down with the new president of the University of Minnesota and work out a collaborative effort," he said.

Sederburg said those connections could help MnSCU as it faces tough budget times.

Rosenstone said he knows there are funding challenges ahead, but he thinks that dark financial picture could be an opportunity for MnSCU to transform itself into something better.

William Sederburg
William Sederburg answers questions during a public interview at the headquarters of the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities system on Tuesday, Feb. 1, 2011. Sederburg, currently the Utah higher education commissioner, is one of two finalists for MnSCU's chancellor job.
MPR Photo/Tim Post

"The economics are demanding that we think in new and different ways about advancing the quality of what we're doing while at the same time we have less money to do it," he said. "We need to educate more students better, but with less money."

To do more with less, Rosenstone said MnSCU needs to partner with other schools, like the U of M. He also said getting the system's costs under control is mandatory.

Rosenstone is convinced the state's economy depends on MnSCU pushing itself to provide a quality education for Minnesota students, so they have the skills the state's employers will need in the future.

"We will not accomplish what we want to accomplish for the state of Minnesota, or be as competitive as we need as a system of higher education, unless we push very hard to further improve the quality of what we're doing in a classroom in a way that serves students and meets workplace needs," Rosenstone said.

Sederburg agrees that Minnesota's economy depends in part on the workforce that comes out of the MnSCU system. With that in mind he wants Minnesota colleges, as well as Minnesota businesses, to partner together.

"In a very broad sense the future of Minnesota is going to depend on a strong and vital MnSCU system," he said. "Not just as a stand alone thing. It's going to depend upon a strong and vital University of Minnesota. We're going to have to team up ... and get a common agenda for the state."

The candidates for MnSCU's chancellor position face another public interview Wednesday, in front of the full MnSCU board.