Marks of distinction

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One of the many qualities I love about VCSU is our spirit of positive restlessness. What I mean by that phrase is that our campus is always looking to improve. This focus on continuous improvement is fueled by a deep desire to excel at teaching and learning. Perhaps our beginnings as a normal school infused that love for teaching and learning from the day we opened our doors in 1890. We’re off to a great start this fall. We set records with our enrollment, and in the U.S. News and World Report rankings, we were once again named a U.S. News “Best College” and the “No. 1 Public Regional College in the Midwest!”Last week we announced our fall enrollment numbers, and we set two records: one in total headcount with 1,522 students, and the other in undergraduate headcount with 1,372 students. While it is always good to set records—and even better to break them—what is more important, of course, is that VCSU is providing a quality academic experience that meets the needs of today’s students. This happens with a lot of intentionality, dedication, and an ethic of care shared by all facets of our learning community, including students, faculty and staff. Indeed, our record enrollment is an indicator of the robust learning environment we create together.Part of our enrollment story is that our freshman retention rate—the percentage of students who return for their second year—has increased each of the last five years. The efforts we have focused on student success and support are making a difference as we strive to deliver distinctive, learner-centered experiences.For the third consecutive year, we’ve been ranked the “No. 1 Public Regional College in the Midwest” by U.S. News and World Report, this year sharing the title with the University of Minnesota Crookston. Inclusion in the rankings this fall means VCSU has now been ranked a U.S. News “Best College” for 20 consecutive years. Two decades of this distinction reflects our quality and the consistent effort it takes to deliver it; we’ve been able to sustain excellence over time—a hallmark of an outstanding organization!U.S. News ranks colleges and universities according to their mission and, in some categories, by location. Schools are evaluated on a variety of criteria, including first-year retention rate, six-year graduation rates, educational spending per student, admissions selectivity, student-faculty ratio, class sizes, faculty resources, proportion of full-time faculty, alumni-giving rate and qualitative assessments by administrators at peer institutions.The “Regional Colleges in the Midwest” category includes 80 ranked colleges and universities, including 13 public institutions, in 12 states: North Dakota, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Michigan, Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Iowa, Missouri, Kansas, Nebraska and South Dakota.I am fond of the saying “I was warmed by a fire I did not build.” Twenty years as a “Best College” reminds me of the strength and fortitude of a long line of dedicated faculty, staff, leaders, alumni, friends, and students. To all of them, I say thank you for carrying us to this juncture!To our current community of learners, I say congratulations. Your work is inspirational and meaningful; I am so proud of you. Let us take a moment to celebrate the good work we do every day, and then, we will keep moving forward—adapting, adjusting, and innovating to create the best practices in teaching and learning for our students’ success. It is what we do; it is how we all row.It is an honor and a privilege to serve among colleagues who strive to get better every day—another good reason why it is a great day to be a Viking!