Women Managers Q&A series: Monthly Q&As with one woman manager each from Minnesota, North Dakota and South Dakota.

Prairie Business Magazine

August 31, 2009

EDNA MORA SZYMANSKI — President, Minnesota State University Moorhead (Moorhead, MN, about 800 employees), 1 year at the university, B.S. in Biology from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (Troy, NY), Masters degree in Rehabilitation Counseling from the University of Scranton (PA), PhD in Special Education and Rehabilitation from the University of Texas at Austin.

HOW WAS YOUR FIRST YEAR ON THE JOB?pb909womenmanagerednaszymanskimn1

Very challenging. On this side of the river we have this state budget shortfall, which was a very significant problem. Because we have had some enrollment problems in the past, we had a revenue shortfall of our own. It all came together for a $9 million budget gap. We managed to close the gap with no layoffs. Then we had that little flood.

WHAT’S THE UNIVERSITY’S LONG-TERM BUDGET OUTLOOK?

I don’t expect to see change in the near future or the foreseeable future. The country is in recession. There are a lot of demands on taxpayers. We serve some of the most financially challenged counties in Minnesota. A lot of our kids can’t afford huge tuition increases. We’re working to develop a new fiscal model for the university that will allow us to survive and thrive throughout the next decade.

WHAT NEW INITIATIVES DO YOU HAVE PLANNED FOR THE MOORHEAD CAMPUS?

We have finished a new mission statement and a new vision for the university. That lays out a blueprint for us and the course for the next decade. We will continue to grow our enrollment, but not too much. We can’t lose the closeness with our students. We’re going to make our dorms more attractive. We’re going to continue to focus on affordability and excellence.

WITH MOORHEAD’S CLOSE PROXIMITY TO NORTH DAKOTA STATE UNIVERSITY AND A NUMBER OF OTHER NEARBY COLLEGES HOW SHOULD MSUM POSITION ITSELF STRATEGICALLY IN THE FUTURE?

We are more in competition with the private colleges than we are with NDSU. We are more about meeting the students where they are. Our new mission is a caring community, promising all students the opportunity to discover their passions. We challenge our students. We try to provide them with a very unique education. We have a different market niche. We think the community needs all of us.

WHAT ARE SOME OF THE CHALLENGES FACING THE MOORHEAD CAMPUS?

The budget. The state has a revenue shortfall. That’s a challenge. We expect a potential continued decrease in our state appropriation. We have to work with that and preserve the affordable excellence of what we provide.

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