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U of M Crookston campus is looking to creatively engage the community

Submitted by Michelle Christopherson
Crookston Times

    Students and faculty kicked off Spring semester a couple of weeks ago.  Just like last fall, classes are delivered in a hybrid/hyflex modality, using a course design model that presents the components of hybrid learning in a flexible course structure that gives students the option of attending sessions in the classroom, participating online, or doing both.

    Basketball and hockey games are in full swing. While watching from your computer or TV screen isn’t the most ideal right now, it is one of the ways in which we can show our support for our teams. It is also possible to watch games in person now as two fans per student-athlete are being allowed at all home UMN Crookston men’s and women’s basketball and hockey games.

    As the campus moves forward there are a variety of efforts taking place that are relevant to our new environment, as we plan for the future.

    Our strategic plan continues to evolve as we need to meet the University’s ever-changing needs, including but not limited to workforce, budgets, and flexible teaching modalities. Online, while not for everyone, continues to be one of Crookston’s assets from the vision of Chancellor Emeritus Donald Sargeant and Chuck Casey to Chancellor Mary Holz-Clause. The campus, now more than ever, is embarking on efforts to improve the quality of the online experience.

    Our upcoming Professional Development Day, February 15, will include online quality sessions for faculty, strengthening our sense of culture and belonging for many staff along with building stronger community relationships.

    Relationships are extremely important to me, personally and professionally. I read these relationships fall into four categories: romantic, friendship, business and fans or followers. The last type of relationship is one that, in my mind, fulfills that social medium. During the pandemic, marketing via word-of-mouth through virtual socialization has upticked, and organizations have engaged to attract customers/patrons and friends. I personally have enjoyed a handful of virtual happy hours and Tri-Valley Opportunity Council’s “Rise and Shine” virtual Coffee Connection. Their next event is February 10...check it out!

    Education, too, relies on relationships. While academic programming strives to meet the needs of the workforce; we at the University continue as well to create more value and aid society in solving their biggest challenges.

    By increasing the quality of life, and even going so far as to say we are preparing an educated citizenry, by developing and creating these potential leaders, we rely on your community engagement and business relationships through collaborative efforts in building human capital.

    “Human capital” is defined by Webster as the “skills, knowledge, and qualifications of a person, group, or workforce considered as economic assets.” One could argue that nothing is more important to a company, nation, university or individual than intelligence. Having the ability to learn and/or understand or deal with new situations is relational. Those in your circle, or tribe, your family, friends, business and social fan groups are important to community success.

    Each one of the four types of relationships in our lives has an effect on our level of success. To create success, you have to understand these relationships and learn how to handle the situations that have the potential to become roadblocks later. Our children continue to watch and monitor how we respond to what life throws at us, how we treat others and, more importantly, how well we communicate with one another. In so many ways right now, it is simply more difficult.

    So as we, the University of Minnesota Crookston, move forward, I invite you to help me, the director of outreach and engagement, to learn more about your organization. What can we do collectively to enhance community involvement, get involved and create new relationships, increase awareness among our youth about the regional workforce and the impact that agriculture, healthcare and manufacturing have within the community of Crookston? I’d love to hear from you. There are many ways, even in our current, seemingly isolated environment, to get involved, whether for recreation, civic engagement or professional. Just let me know.  

    I’m looking forward as 2021 continues to unfold and the creativity that we, together, will champion as a strong community partner within Crookston and the surrounding communities and state.

    Michelle Christopherson is the director of the UMN Crookston Office of Outreach and Engagement.

UMN Crookston Director of Outreach and Engagement Michelle Christopherson