Last year I asked Winona State University's students, faculty and staff, alumni and alumnae, and members of the Winona community to share their hopes and dreams. We received about 2,500 different ideas -- an overwhelming number that tells me that we all still strongly believe in the mission of Winona State.

After poring over every hope and dream, a pattern emerged, and it was clear to me that our hopes and dreams are really about five different themes. These five themes can be summed up in five simple words that contain a wealth of meaning: people, programs, price, place, and pride.

First and foremost our hopes and dreams are about people. We want a more diverse campus, a more hospitable campus, and we want more accountability and transparency among our employees, students, and community members.

Our hopes and dreams are also about the programs we offer: about keeping our current academic programs strong while exploring new offerings that are relevant and responsive to the needs of Minnesota and a changing world. It is about providing great student life opportunities, integrating those experiences into the overall learning experience, and about empowering our students with cutting-edge technology, classrooms, and labs. It is about continuing our strong athletics program, strengthening our partnerships in Rochester, and maintaining intellectual rigor and high academic standards.

We owe a debt of gratitude to the leadership of Gene Pelowski and the state legislature for keeping tuition affordable for another two years, but WSU must meet Minnesota more than half-way. Therefore, our hopes and dreams are about price, about keeping WSU affordable. How can we do this? Some ideas entail reorganization, capturing efficiencies, identifying administrative savings, sharing services with Southeast Tech and other institutions, and seeking scholarships and other external support.

Given the splendor of Winona and of WSU, it was no surprise that our hopes and dreams are about place, about enhancing the beauty of this already beautiful campus, sharing our arboretum, modeling sustainability, making the river a part of the campus, and being fully engaged in the community, giving back to Winona in recognition of everything Winona has given us.

Additionally, our hopes and dreams are about pride, about fully realizing our distinctiveness and excellence, telling our story, revitalizing existing traditions and creating new traditions that fuel our mission, and letting WSU be WSU. So, people, programs, price, place, and pride … these are our hopes, these are our dreams, and we need to make our dreams come true.

If we do this, what might WSU look like in five years? I believe that Winona State University will be the epitome of a welcoming, diverse, and collegial university that develops meaningful relationships with our communities. We will offer the most innovative, relevant, and highest-quality programs, engaging our students to strive for excellence. We will offer the highest value of any university education by maintaining affordability without compromising on quality. We will be the model of a well-maintained, beautiful, sustainable, engaged, safe, and healthy campus. Pride in WSU will create life-long relationships with students, enhance employee recruitment and retention, and foster tremendous support from donors, alumni and alumnae, and the community.

People, programs, price, place, pride: these five themes will be our priorities as we plan for a brighter future.

Every hope and every dream is like its own individual spark. Each spark may not be able to illuminate the world on its own. But together, these sparks add up to a brilliant light, the light of promise that Winona State University has always shone, and will continue to shine.

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