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M State celebrates merger

Instructor Angie Mohr helps student Emily Knese with her math as a M State nursing class figures out calculations for preparing a feeding tube for a patient. BRIAN BASHAM/DL NEWSPAPERS

M State is throwing the party of the decade and everyone is invited – to celebrate their decade.

It has been 10 years since the Minnesota State Community and Technical College merged with several regional educational institutes, and the college is ready to celebrate.

On Tuesday, Oct. 29, M State is hosting an open house “for the students, but we also want to get the community out,” G.L. Tucker said. Tucker serves as dean of the custom training services and business entrepreneurial services at the college.

The celebration is two-fold, Director of Student Services Karen Buboltz said. It’s not only to celebrate 10 years, it’s also to expose the school “and everything inside these walls” to prospective students.

During the open house, the public can visit with faculty, see programs the college offers and what the classes entail and just get a feel for the campus.

So many members of the public come to meetings in the conference room at the college, she said, but many haven’t seen more than that. This is their chance.

Changes over 10 years

When M State became M State 10 years ago, it merged the concept of community college and technical college.

There were six community colleges merged together, but Bemidji and Thief River Falls broke off to leave Detroit Lakes, Fergus Falls, Wadena and Moorhead.

“It’s not just a tech school but also a community college,” where students can “transfer degrees and get career degrees,” Buboltz said.

Before that happened though, there was the Vo-Tech, a post-secondary school that was under the leadership umbrella of the Detroit Lakes School District.

On July 1, 1995, the school joined the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities system, which gives students the ability to easily transfer their credits to four-year colleges within the MnSCU system.

One of the biggest additions to degrees over the years is the AA degree, or associate of arts degree.

And the courses offered have changed immensely with the times as well.

In a technological driven world, the college has kept up by offering more and more computer related programs. There are virtual office professional and web development to name a couple.

Some of the other degrees that set M State Detroit Lakes apart are the power sports technology, marine engine technology, architecture technology, civil engineering technology and radiology technology programs.

Not only are there classes available on all four campuses, there are also classes available online. Some classes may require both classroom and online classes, and some can be done all online.

“We have realigned classes so there’s more synergy regionally,” said Tom Whelihan, senior dean of academic affairs.

Tucker said it’s nice for the Detroit Lakes campus to have the regionally centered location as well.

What if M State DL didn’t exist?

Being under the technical and community college umbrella, hitting many different majors, it’s easy for students to either get their first two years done at M State and then transfer to a four-year college, or to get their education at M State and then enter the workforce.

“There are more pathways today than ever in history,” Whelihan said.

M State in Detroit Lakes employs about 100 people, and is school to more than 700 students.

The partnerships throughout the community have been strong with the college, Tucker said. That could be anything from the training that M State provides for businesses to simply opening the doors to host a gathering in the college’s conference room.

Though those partnerships are important, it’s the access to the education that is possibly the most important part.

“Most importantly, that we have this college in this community. It would be difficult to access higher education if it was not here,” Tucker said.

Many people don’t have the financial means or time to drive to another campus and possibly wouldn’t be attending college if the Detroit Lakes campus didn’t exist.            

Not only are we talking savings in gas and time, but also tuition. Anthony Schaffhauser, dean of student access, estimated that a student can save about $24,000 in costs to complete the first two years at M State versus at a four-year university.

Schaffhauser said the college plays a critical role in local workforce development in the community, too. Not only from the standpoint of students graduating and entering the workforce, but also from the training standpoint.

For example, Tucker has worked with the welding department and has gotten a portable welding unit to travel to area business and provide training on-site.

M State is for all ages

The classrooms at M State are made up of people of all ages, not just those ages 18-23. The average age on campus is 25-26.

“There are high school students (taking post-secondary classes) all the way to 50-plus year olds,” Buboltz said. “It’s a unique aspect we have here.”

“There are a lot of blended options,” she said for the way people can get their education through M State, and therefore a blend of people taking advantage of those options as well.

“There are a lot more part-time students,” she added.

Whether people don’t have the time or money to go to college full-time, M State makes it easy for them to study around work schedules or childcare schedules and still get their education, she said.

Open house events

On Oct. 29, the open house is from 4 to 8 p.m., with a few words from President Peggy Kennedy and cake served at 4:30.

There will also be a performance from the Fergus Falls choir, food throughout the open house, root beer floats and slushies-freezies served, representing the tuition freeze for the next two years at the college.

“We will also be recognizing the scholarship recipients for this season,” said Denise Laymon, who serves as the chief development and alumni officer at the school.

There will be prizes, snacks and a pumpkin decorating station for families with young children.

The admissions office will be open and ready to start the enrollment process with any prospective students, Schaffhauser said.

For those who apply, there will be a $50 gift certificate redeemable at the M State bookstore once they’re registered for classes.

And anyone who attends the open house can put their name in a drawing for an iPad Mini.

The Business and Entrepreneurial Services department will also be available for anyone looking to start a new business.

Follow Pippi Mayfield on Twitter at @PippiMayfield.