Chancellor Dr. Devinder Malhotra

Our progress as a nation can be no swifter than our progress in education.  The human mind is our fundamental resource.  John F. Kennedy

Workers will have to re-think where their careers are headed and possibly entertain retraining or gaining credentials that can give them a new shot at opportunity. Life as we have known it from a year ago, will no longer be the same. 

Chancellor Dr. Devinder Malhotra leads Minnesota State Colleges and Universities System (MNSCU) and invites interested parties willing to face the difficult challenges of an uncertain world to visit any of campuses in the system and explore possibilities.  He says Minnesotans who arm themselves with new knowledge and engage the caring support of highly qualified personnel in his expansive higher education conglomerate, will discover extraordinary feats can be achieved.  Minnesota State, as MNSCU is called,  delivers results that reflect students’ and staff’s diligence, confidence, positivity and faith.

“Those of us who spend our days in academic circles have a broader mission now.  We must be honest and ask, how will our students learn and what is important to learn?  How will we teach them; what will we teach them; and how will teacher preparation certification programs be redesigned to find solutions in closing the destructive achievement gap?  How will our instructional delivery maintain the integrity of cultural sensitivity and relevance related to their ultimate career goals?”

He said there will be many technology and knowledge-based requisites to compete in our global job market.  Natural human and physical boundaries have become quite porous, shifting from Eurocentric to multicultural populations.

Malhotra said a trans-migratory culture will create the hybridization of relationships, social and family organizations, and even the foods we eat.  Education, at all levels, cannot remain ‘unchanged’, he said.   

“Our universities and colleges serve 47 different communities in the state on 54 campuses, with a total of 330,000 students,” Malhotra said in a recent interview for Conversations with Al McFarlane.  “We are the largest and most diverse higher education system in the state.  240,000 students are in credential-bearing programs. 65,000 of them are people of color or of native origin.  75,000 are of low-income status; 80,000 are 25 years and older, 47,000 are first generation college educated, and 10,000 of our students are veterans.   We have more students in each these categories than all other Minnesota academic institutions combined.” Dr. Malhotra said.

  “We provide quality higher education opportunities that serve the needs for economic, social, and cultural vibrancy,” he said.

Malhotra said that within three weeks of the emergence of the Coronavirus Pandemic, 95% of classes were remote.  Knowing some students did not have access to the internet or have a personal computer, the campuses stayed open so students could safely use the technology.  Free food was often provided.

In the spring and summer, 26,000 graduated.

Minnesota State was prepared to respond quickly to Pandemic-driven challenges because, the Chancellor said,  because in 2018-2019, select staff took a year to examine how higher education fits into the scheme of today’s unprecedented societal and economic climate.  Local and national experts were brought in to help dismantle some of the old curriculum and re-design innovative ways to add to students’ knowledge and skill-based courses.  Dialogue centered around the critical questions:  How can we as leaders and staff prepare to provide relevant and rigorous higher education for future workforce market requirements; and how can we adapt ourselves to the needs of those who have historically had low participation in post graduate studies? How can we help our students overcome barriers?

The Chancellor said the institution asked why there were barriers in the first place.  “It’s been that way for far too long, Higher education is not making a dent in the historic inequities in the educational system, but we can certainly begin to try,” he said.

Minnesota State launched Equity 2030 as an ambitious and bold initiative to leverage a shared vision to create necessary changes along the academic spectrum.  Malhotra said a major challenge has been that colleges and universities within the system have operated as silos, operating in isolation.

Over a 10-year plan, Equity 2030 addresses educational equity gaps across race and ethnicity, socioeconomic status. and geographic location.  Its focus is cohesive and coordinated approaches to cultural change, innovation, and leadership inspired by equity-minded and anti-racist practices. 

During the year-long COVID-19 Pandemic, the innovative and dedicated staff on all campuses came together, holding themselves accountable for delivering the services and support they believed the students deserved and needed.  Nearly half of the student body struggles with food and housing insecurities.  Many work full time, have childcare needs, but want desperately to improve their personal situations so they can attend classes.  “If our students weren’t giving up, we were going to try and find a way to help,” he said. “We reached out to partners who were also committed to addressing academic gaps between whites and students of color.  We found ingenuous ways to connect our students with resources, and raised some funding from alumni, philanthropic institutions, and provided more scholarships based on both merit and economic need. including the Legislative Workforce Development Scholarship, an opportunity aligned resources we offered students with high demand occupations such as health care, early childcare, agriculture, IT, manufacturing, and transportation.  We are also seeking federal scholarships for those impacted by career displacement. We know almost 1/3 of the population will not have a job to return to after the Pandemic and economic downturn. And we know 75% of new employment opportunities will require post grad study.”

The Chancellor said, all thing being equal, there is no better or more cost effective education investment for Minnesota residents.  Annual tuition costs for the 2-year colleges is approximately $5,200, and for the universities, $8,000, he said.  

The life-long educator immigrated to America from India to complete his doctoral studies in economics.  He said once he walked into his first classroom, he was hooked.  Forty years later, Dr. Malhotra is excited about the possibilities of being a contributor to the strategic research, planning, and implementation of systemic academic transformations. 

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