The University of Minnesota Crookston (UMC) is a public baccalaureate institution and one of five statewide campuses of the University of Minnesota System with an enrollment of more than 1,400 students (approximately 600 on campus and 900 online.) UMC proudly carries on a tradition of a century of educational service to northwestern Minnesota. Since its establishment as an institution of higher learning in 1966 and its transition to offering baccalaureate degree programs in 1993, UMC has been a small campus offering the big University of Minnesota degrees.
In recognition of its strong commitment to economic engagement, the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities (APLU) designated the University of Minnesota Crookston as an Innovation & Economic Prosperity (IEP) University during their annual meeting held in November 2022.
“We are one of only about 100 universities in the U.S. who have received this designation, one of the few in rural areas, and most likely the smallest campus in the U.S.,” said Chancellor Mary Holz-Clause. “Special shout out to faculty and staff members Mitch Berg, Macey Buker, Rachel Lundbohm, Rob Proulx, and Teresa Spaeth, who successfully led our campus to the designation status.”
As part of the self-study conducted with both external and internal stakeholders that were central to the designation application process, UMN Crookston identified three areas of institutional strength in economic engagement and described programs in these areas. Accomplishments in community engagement and economic prosperity include the creation of the Veden Center for Rural Engagement, hosting the University Economic Development Administration (EDA) Center, tribal collaborations, community book clubs, and housing the AmeriCorps Retired Senior Volunteer Program (RSVP). Assisting entrepreneurs and small businesses has occurred through the Mano Amiga program, small business partnerships, and Ag Marketing Resource Center (AgMRC) programs, hosting a satellite office of the Northwest Minnesota Small Business Development Center (SBDC), and partnership with the Valley Technology Park. Advancements in lifelong learning include offering innovative and online degree programs, undergraduate research opportunities, significant student internship experiences, and the development of the Center for Rural Education in Science and Technology (CREST).
The self-study provided valuable insights into areas of growth and improvement. The first goal is to increase connections with talent and place by updating the strategic plan to enhance community engagement, formalize community engagement and convening opportunities, update promotion and tenure requirements to increase emphasis on community-engaged scholarship and formalize the Program Improvement Advisory Committee (PIAC) process. The second goal is to enhance industry programming through the AgMRC program, the development of the Center for Excellence in Rural Pedagogy, the launching of the NXT GEN Ag pathway program, and implementing of the CREST and AgVets initiatives. Third, UMC will continue to grow the Veden Center by seeking the Carnegie engaged community designation, seeking additional funding for community-engaged opportunities, increasing community-engaged scholarship among faculty, and better measurement of engagement efforts.
UMN Crookston is now one of 80 higher education institutions designated as an IEP university. Through this work, UMC has demonstrated a commitment to continuous learning and improvement in this kind of engagement vital to universities and their regional partners. This process brought the campus together, identified accomplishments and strengths, identified growth areas, and illuminated the importance of rural communities while re-invigorating UMN Crookston’s commitment to advancing people and place in addition to its technological accomplishments.
Members of the University of Minnesota Crookston IEP Designation Team