Shortly after the North Star State was formed in 1858, Minnesota State University began serving this great state and has continued to do so through the best and most challenging of times. We have persevered through wars, depressions, fires, protests and more.

Along the way, we helped launch the careers of business leaders, television personalities, professional athletes, teachers and elected officials on both the state and national level, as well as tens of thousands of others who are stars in their own right here in Minnesota and around the world.

We are currently educating Minnesota’s next generation of leaders amidst the backdrop of a pandemic. It hasn’t been easy on our students, but last spring saw our highest graduation rate since 2006.

Last fall Minnesota State resisted a national trend. Public colleges and universities enroll seven out of 10 postsecondary students nationally, and across the country enrollments at those institutions declined by 4 percent, according to the National Student Clearing House. At Minnesota State enrollment grew 2.1 percent. We think that’s because students knew we’d have a plan.

When the fall semester began last August there was concern that adding 13,000+ college students to the Mankato community could turn us into a “COVID hotspot.” But it didn’t happen.

For the most part, our students responded quite well. They availed themselves for testing on and off campus, understood they had to forgo the kind of large-scale social events associated with college life and generally made good choices that kept our Mankato community safe.

We expect a return to a more “normal” campus experience, including in-person learning, for the Fall 2021 semester. We take great pride in being an institution that not only provides great learning, but also learns from our own experiences.

From our quick pivot and investment to make every classroom capable of being utilized for FlexSync (our unique learning solution designed to allow for flexibility while maintaining face-to-face instruction) to our outstanding faculty learning to deliver lessons in person and via distance, to hiring additional staff to support the few students who did have to quarantine and isolate, we are extremely proud of the efforts and response across our entire university.

As students and families begin to cement their own plans for next fall, we are confident that anyone who chooses Minnesota State will enjoy the results of what we learned this past year. Whether building our own respiratory clinic for testing or serving on statewide advisory committees informing guidance for Minnesota’s colleges and universities, we have practiced our big ideas and real-world thinking at a level never experienced before.

We are eager to welcome students back to our campus next fall. Students, we’re ready for you to launch your college experience with us in Mankato, a great college town. Parents and families, our campus has been and will be a safe place for your student to learn — before, during and after the pandemic.

We will continue building on the lessons that have been learned in the past year and solving problems as they arise — that’s what keeps us all moving forward. Minnesota State Mankato stands ready to do the hard work necessary to build a future for all of Minnesota and beyond. We hope you will be part of that process as well.

David Jones is vice president for student affairs and enrollment management at Minnesota State University Mankato.

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