Facebook streams a variety of questionnaires that purport to pinpoint our personalities. They are goofy and fun, particularly when friends also take the test. Of course, the results should be taken with a healthy dose of skepticism.  However, occasionally we experience that old shock of recognition—perhaps only because the designation flatters us!

I took the iPersonic Personality Test and I am a Groundbreaking Thinker. What is your type?

The Groundbreaking Thinker

In their work, Groundbreaking Thinkers highly rate challenges and diversified tasks. They cannot stand routine and too detailed work. They love to astound others with bold ideas for an original, new project and  then leave it up to the others to implement them. Hierarchies, rules and regulations arouse their opposition and they love outsmarting the system. It is vital to them that they enjoy their work; if this is the case, they quickly become pure workaholics. Their creativity best takes effect when they work independently; but they are very good at motivating others and infecting them with their optimistic nature. Conceptual or advisory activities appeal especially to Groundbreaking Thinkers. It can happen that some people feel somewhat duped by their flexible, spontaneous nature.

Their sociability and enterprise ensure that Groundbreaking Thinkers always have a large circle of friends and acquaintances in which activity plays an important role. As they are mostly in a good mood, they are popular and very welcome guests. Grumbling and peevishness are unknown to them. However, they do tend to be a little erratic and unstable when it comes to obligations and this makes them appear to be unreliable to some.

Groundbreaking Thinkers are very critical and demanding when it comes to picking a partner because they look for the ideal relationship and have a very concrete picture of this ideal relationship. Mutual aims in life are very important to them. They do not like compromising and would rather remain alone. For the partner, it is often a challenge to have a long-term relationship with a Groundbreaking Thinker. Groundbreaking Thinkers need a lot of space and diversity or otherwise they become bored and feel cramped.

Types who are rather more traditionalistic often have problems with the willingness of Groundbreaking Thinkers to take risks and their often crazy, spontaneous actions. However, if one can summon up sufficient flexibility and tolerance for them, one will never be bored in their presence and will always have a loyal and faithful partner.

As a Groundbreaking Thinker, you are one of the extroverted personality types. Dealing with others, communication, discussions, and a little action are your life’s blood – and some of your strengths. You are very articulate and love variety personally as well professionally. New tasks, new projects, new people, fascinate you because you are always interested to increase your wealth of experience.

Consequently, you have no problem run with the hare and hunt with the hounds; juggling parallel tasks to be accomplished electrifies you, and you are an accomplished improviser. Your enthusiasm carries others along and enables you to create positive impulses in your team. Mountains of paperwork, endless e-mail correspondences, and solitary work tire you quickly, and bore and frustrate you. The appreciation of your work by others is more important for you than for the introverted Thinker types. You measure your own professional value by the admiring glances of your colleagues and superiors.

The psychologist Keirsey once described the Groundbreaking Thinker as the “soul of the company,” and that can be just as easily applied to an employee position, as to an independent chief of a company. Since risk represents less of a threat than excitement, freelance or self-employment are well suited to you.

However, you must take care to have collaborating staff around you, or that you are able to work closely with other teams in order to satisfy your contact and communication needs. You are naturally suited for leadership positions because there you have the ultimate freedom making your decisions and choosing your tasks.As a Groundbreaking Thinker, you are one of the extroverted personality types. Dealing with others, communication, discussions, and a little action are your life’s blood – and some of your strengths. You are very articulate and love variety personally as well professionally. New tasks, new projects, new people, fascinate you because you are always interested to increase your wealth of experience.

Hello Monte,

The stairwell leading up to the Soc. Dept. at Augsburg is lined with posters from our annual Torstenson Lecture.  I have attached one such poster from a few years back.  We invite local soc-celebrities to give a talk and then have dinner with our Sr. soc. majors.

This year, we would be honored if you would give the 2014 Torstenson Lecture in Sociology.  If you are willing and able, we are hoping to schedule the talk for April 1st or 2nd, but we can discuss other dates.  The lecture is typically around 5:30 and we go to dinner somewhere in the neighborhood.  We will also provide you with a stipend for your time.
Please let me know if you would consider speaking at Augsburg.  We would love to have you!


Dear Tim,

When I read the first paragraph, I assumed you were inviting me to attend the “2014 Torstenson Lecture on Sociology.” I eagerly read on to see who you had selected as this year’s “soc-celebrity.” Honestly, I was somewhat stunned when I discovered that you were inviting me to give the lecture!

Rather than a soc-celebrity, I think of myself more as sociology’s most infamous “confidence man,” one-step away from being exposed for the “professor” Ponzi scheme that I’ve been running for the past 40 years.

As long as you, in good conscience, can ask your students and faculty to foolishly invest what Click and Clack called “a perfectly good hour” for dubious return, I am eager to bamboozle any “marks” you are able to gather for this investment seminar on sociology stocks and bonds.


P.S. April Fools’ Day seems a most appropriate date for my lecture.

by Doug Hartmann3 days ago at 11:03 am

As a follow-up to my post about great books in sociology last week, I called for readers to send in their own Top 10 lists. It has been fun to see those starting to come in. Here’s one from TSP blogger, Monte Bute, the self-styled “backstage sociologist.” Replete with an introductory explanation and annotations for each proposed volume, Bute suggesetd the title “A Populist’s Top Ten Sociology Books.” I tend to think of it as a classic, old-school list. Take it away, Monte.

Wayne Booth once argued that every composition strikes a “rhetoric stance”—an author, a subject, and an audience. Usually these elements are implicit; in this essay, I give you the “Full Monte.”

What is my persona? I am a populist sociologist, an outsider with a hardscrabble perspective. Lacking what Tillie Olsen called “the soil of easy growth,” I acquired my taste for great books not in seminar rooms but on the streets. Never disciplined by a sociology graduate program, I forged my chops experientially—as a deviant, dissident, and organizer.

What is my subject? It is a case for the ten best sociology books. But what do I mean by “best”? I sought books that allow the reader to achieve, in the words of C. Wright Mills, “a quality of mind that will help them to use information and to develop reason in order to achieve lucid summations of what is going on in the world and of what may be happening within themselves.” (By the way, The Sociological Imagination came in 11th on my list.)

The list is chronological without ranking. Perhaps surprisingly, it includes only volumes published between 1840 and 1959. I leave publications from the past 55 years to the test of time: Are they sprinters or long-distance runners? Consequently, you will find no “flavors of the decade” like Habermas, Foucault, Smith, Bourdieu, Chodorow, Wallerstein, Skocpol, Giddens, Hochschild, Bellah, Tilly, or Bauman.

Who is my audience? It is not the crème de la crème professional sociologists. I developed the list for undergraduate and graduate students and well-informed citizens (Who Virginia Woolf called the “common reader,” as opposed to the scholar). As an essayist, I stand with George Orwell: “Good prose is like a window pane.” While not all of my authors fully achieve this high standard, it helps explain why other candidates, like Parsons and most recent academic celebrities, are not on the list.

• Democracy in America Vol. 2 (Alex de Tocqueville)

If you are an aficionado of cultural or historical sociology, here is the man who wrote the book on both. Ironically, it took Habits of Heart to acquaint most American sociologists with Tocqueville’s masterpiece. He remains underappreciated as both a thinker and writer. As an aside, his Recollections is a first-person account of the French revolution of 1848, a compelling contrast with Marx’s interpretation.

• The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte (Karl Marx)

This is Marx’s finest sociological work. When events confounded his polemics in The Communist Manifesto, he followed the evidence and revised his theory. In explaining the failure of the Revolution of 1848, Marx employs his most sophisticated use of class analysis. Written in white heat as a series of magazine articles, this is what public sociology is all about.

• Suicide (Emile Durkheim)

One could not leave out the foundational text of what Sorokin called “Quanophrenia.” Cliché or not, familiarity does breed contempt. It’s easy to forget how confounding in 1897 it was to argue that suicide was not just an individual act, but also a social fact su generis. The recent translation by Robin Buss better captures Durkheim’s lucid prose style than the earlier Spaulding and Simpson text.

• The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism (Max Weber)

Was he right? Was he wrong? Who cares! The way he constructs his argument is sociology’s finest example of the rhetoric of inquiry. How he begins by teasing out his research question, his subtle probing of Franklin and Baxter for “spirit” and “ethic,” his historical narrative of symbolic motivations without events or empirical data, his poetic and prophetic conclusion—this is a work of art, bringing to mind Huizinga’s masterful The Autumn of the Middle Ages.

• Soziologie (Georg Simmel)

Conventional wisdom dismisses Simmel as an “impressionistic” thinker. Because translation of this thousand-page tome took place in piecemeal fashion, readers of individual chapters saw only episodic brilliance. While the entire work is not conventionally “systemic,” it does possess a conceptual coherence—sociation as the guiding principle of his sociology. On Individuality and Social Forms best introduces this masterpiece.

• Twenty Years at Hull-House (Jane Addams)

This choice will bewilder only those who have not thoroughly examined her life and times. This volume is an example of genre bending, the autobiography as social theory (as is Du Bois’ Darkwater). She exemplifies feminist sociology, creative nonfiction, action research, as well as the activism of American sociology’s founding generation from 1900-1930.

• The Polish Peasant in Europe and America (W.I. Thomas and Florian Znaniecki)

Nearly inaccessible (a few used copies starting at $100) and forbidding (2,250 pages), it is a sacrilege that the ASA or the University of Chicago Press has not commissioned a 400-500 page abridged edition. It’s time to get beyond Blumer’s savaging of this work. The authors demonstrated that emigration and immigration are a seamless social process. To get a flavor of this tour de force, you need two volumes: under the same name, Eli Zaretsky has edited 127 pages of the personal documents; On Social Organization and Social Personality provides 157 pages of history, analysis, theory, and methodology.

• Black Reconstruction in America, 1860-1880 (W.E.B. Du Bois)

Sociologists belatedly canonized Du Bois, but in the process neglected this magnum opus of historical sociology. I am baffled that during the heyday of this subfield, Black Reconstruction garnered nary a mention. Working as a “plain Marxist” (Mills) rather than a dogmatic one, Du Bois refused to reduce race to class. He is the first to tease out the contradictions between race and class in American history.

• Social Theory and Social Structure (Robert K. Merton)

Only Weber and Goffman rival him as the 20th century’s most prolific entrepreneur of enduring sociological concepts. He is a far more eclectic and creative thinker than the caricature of him as a mere handmaiden of Parsons’ functionalism. Merton is perhaps American sociology’s finest prose stylist.

• The Presentation of Self in Everyday Life (Erving Goffman)

He turned the study of face-to-face interaction into a personal cottage industry. While he is perhaps the most important American sociologist of the 20th century, he, like Simmel, left no heirs. Ironically, sociological mandarins only begrudgingly tolerate his rule breaking because he was a genius. Au Contraire, he was a genius because he broke the rules. Like many of these authors, he writes craftily and, consequently, is a delightful read.

As the poet and linguist John Ciardi put it, “Good words to you.”

– See more at: https://thesocietypages.org/editors/2014/01/07/butes-big-ten/#sthash.1jqvgrw9.dpuf

In a column from “The Editors’ Desk” at The Society Pages, Doug Hartmann offers a fascinating initial reading list for a new graduate course he’s proposed: “Great Books in Sociology.” He asked for comments, reactions, and suggestions. His post is below. I replied with a supplemental list of somewhat neglected classics.

Great Books in Sociology

by Doug Hartmann, 18 hours ago at 08:43 am

“Great Books in Sociology” is a new course I’ve proposed for our graduate curriculum here at Minnesota. I’m not sure I’ll get to teach it or not, but I’m having lots of fun thinking of the books I might include. Here’s my initial list.

1. The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism (Max Weber)

2. Black Reconstruction (W.E.B. DuBois)

3. Stigma (Erving Goffman)

4. The Managed Heart (Arlie Hochschild)

5. The Culture of Public Problems (Joe Gusfield)

6. Weight of the World (Pierre Bourdieu)

7. Sidewalk (Mitch Duneier)

8. Ghostly Matters (Avery Gordon)

9. Religion in Human Evolution (Robert Bellah)

Reactions? Thoughts? Anything obvious I’ve missed?  The main criteria or principles I’ve been using so far are: it has to be a real book not a collection; the author has to be a sociologist; and it has to be a work that is actually worth reading, not just something that you should read or that represents some larger point or principle.

Also, if it is not obvious: I’m trying to think of the list as a whole set as well. My larger idea and goal is that this kind of list/course should help us not only think more about book-length writing and research projects, but also about what sociology itself is as an intellectual tradition and scholarly pursuit. Anyway, comments and suggestions–for books, authors, or topics–appreciated. This should be fun.

Monte Bute 2:58 am on January 1, 2014 | # | Reply

Here are a few thoughts on your list. My recommendations below are NOT my top 20, just some neglected sociological classics that deserve consideration for your course (and for the edification of young sociologists).

Kudos on your selection of “Black Reconstruction in America.” Far and away Du Bois’ best and most influential academic work (note I said “academic”).

I concur that Goffman should be included. While “Stigma” is a very good,” “The Presentation of Self in Everyday Life” will still be read in a 100 years.

I agree that Bourdieu should also be included. However, “Weight of the World” is a questionable choice. It has 22 co-authors and seems more like Studs Turkel than an example of Bourdieu’s best work like “Outline of a Theory of Practice” or “Distinction.”

Simmel is the most obvious oversight. Unfortunately, the suggestion of “The Web of Group-Affiliation” overlooks that it is just a chapter in “Soziologie,” as is “Conflict.” The respective translations by Bendix and Wolff are conveniently available in a single volume. “The Philosophy of Money” may end up his most canonical work.

For Joe Gusfield, I would substitute “Symbolic Crusade: Status Politics and the American Temperance Movement” for “The Culture of Public Problems.”

Here are 20 volumes for your consideration. I make no mention of books already cited in this thread of replies:

  • “Democracy in America” Vol. 2 (Tocqueville)
  • “Twenty Years at Hull-House” or “Democracy and Social Ethics” (Jane Addams)
  • “The Civilizing Process” (Norbert Elias)
  • “The Reproduction of Mothering” (Nancy Chodorow)
  • “The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte” (Karl Marx)
  • “Middletown” (Robert Lynd and Helen Merrell Lynd)
  • “Ideology and Utopia” (Karl Mannheim)
  • “Human Nature and the Social Order” (Charles Cooley)
  • “Society in America” abridged ed. (Harriet Martineau)
  • “The Lonely Crowd” “(David Riesman)
  • “The Culture Industry” (Theodor Adorno)
  • “A Voice from the South” (Anna Julia Cooper)
  • “The Opium of the Intellectuals” (Raymond Aron)
  • “The Structural Transformation of the Public Sphere” (Jurgen Habermas)
  • “The Power Elite” (C.W. Mills)
  • “Class and Class Conflict in Industrial Society” (Ralf Dahrendorf)
  • “Abortion and the Politics of Motherhood” (Kristin Luker)
  • “Political Parties” (Robert Michels)
  • “The Hidden Injuries of Class” or “Corrosion of Character” (Richard Sennett)
  • “Paths in Utopia” (Martin Buber)


A home without books is a body without soul.

If you have a garden and a library, you have everything you need.

Cultivation to the mind is as necessary as food to the body.

There are more men ennobled by study than by nature.

What nobler employment, or more valuable to the state, than that of the man who instructs the rising generation?

The authority of those who teach is often an obstacle to those who want to learn.

Knowledge which is divorced from justice, may be called cunning rather than wisdom.

I am not ashamed to confess that I am ignorant of what I do not know.

Brevity is a great charm of eloquence.

Silence is one of the great arts of conversation.

Orators are most vehement when their cause is weak.

If we are not ashamed to think it, we should not be ashamed to say it.




What Karl Marx’s “The Communist Manifesto” was to the 19th Century, Gene Sharp’s “From Dictatorship To Democracy”  is to our globalized era.The book has spread like a prairie fire since it was written 20 years ago and has been translated by activists into more than 30 languages. It has become the bible of nonviolent revolution in the Ukraine, Tunisia, Eygpt, Serbia, Iran, Burma, Georgia, Belarus, and numerous other locales.

In his manifesto, Sharp quotes a 14th Century parable by Liu-Ju:

“In the feudal state of Chu an old man survived by keeping monkeys in his service.  The people of Chu called him “jugong” (monkey master). Each morning, the old man would assemble the monkeys in his courtyard, and order the eldest one to lead the others to the mountains to gather fruits from bushes and trees. It was the rule that each monkey had to give one-tenth of his collection to the old man.  Those who failed to do so would be ruthlessly flogged.  All the monkeys suffered bitterly, but dared not complain.

“One day, a small monkey asked the other monkeys: ‘Did the old man plant all the fruit trees and bushes?’  The others said:  ‘No, they grew naturally,’ The small monkey further asked:  ‘Can’t we take the fruits without the old man’s permission?’ The others replied: ‘Yes, we all can.’ The small monkey continued: ‘Then, why should we depend on the old man; why must we all serve him?’

“Before the small monkey was able to finish his statement, all the monkeys suddenly became enlightened and awakened.

“On the same night, watching that the old man had fallen asleep, the monkeys tore down all the barricades of the stockade in which they were confined, and destroyed the stockade entirely.  They also took the fruits the old man had in storage, brought all with them to the woods, and never returned. The old man finally died of starvation.”

Yu-li-zi says, “Some men in the world rule their people by tricks and not by righteous principles. Aren’t they just like the monkey master? They are not aware of their muddle-headedness. As soon as their people become enlightened, their tricks no longer work.”


Minneapolis Star Tribune, Readers Write: (Dec. 1): MnSCU faculty


Editorial Board wrongly disrespects faculty

The Star Tribune’s Nov. 24 editorial (“A job-friendly course is right for MnSCU”) misrepresented — and even appeared to threaten — state university faculty.

“But MnSCU’s faculty should understand that they share a mission to serve Minnesota, in institutions that are accountable to the public,” the Editorial Board wrote. “If they prove unwilling to take steps of MnSCU’s choosing to better meet the state’s workforce challenge, the Legislature has the power to dictate change of its own devising.”

The board did not carefully read or listen to our statement to Chancellor Steven Rosenstone and the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities trustees concerning the strategic plan called “Charting the Future” (CTF):

“The Inter Faculty Organization (IFO) embraces the values and commitments inherent in ‘Charting the Future’ … We commit ourselves to bringing the best ideas of more than 3,500 faculty members to the table as we move from these recommendations to concrete actions that will best serve those who chose to study at one of our state universities.”

The editorial suggests that our demand that CTF recognize distinctive workforce missions between community and technical colleges and state universities is insubordination. The newspaper also implies that our cautionary warning that CTF honor local control and decentralization is obstructionist. Nothing could be farther from the truth.

Rather, we are collaborative partners, exercising our responsibilities under shared governance. Our constructive criticism of an ill-advised first draft dramatically improved the final report. Likewise, we will press that implementation come not from the top down, but from the bottom up.

Monte Bute, Woodbury

The writer is action coordinator for the Inter Faculty Organization, the collective bargaining representative for faculty in the seven state universities of the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities system.

I received the following intemperate message on Facebook this morning:

Monte Bute, it’s not paternalist classism — it is what I have to do to survive! We have to have certain grades, pass certain numbers of people, by state law. I can’t have wildly lower grades than my colleagues and still be considered adequate at teaching. Unlike some others, I at least give actual reactions, give them a real sense of where they are competent to transfer to or not, for instance, and at the same time, keep in school a few talented people from troubled backgrounds whom you, Monte Bute, would apparently assign to the trash heap! (I have the impression I really dislike you, Monte … you seem like one of these old-style Marxists who in fact hates the poor. I hope I misunderstand.)

Rather than respond in kind, I am posting an essay I wrote for the Minneapolis Star Tribune in 2006.

A letter to a student of a certain class

Monte Bute

Dear Minerva,

It’s good to hear from you. I appreciate the candor of your remarks about my teaching and the constructive spirit in which they were conveyed. With this letter, I hope to respond in kind. Thanks for giving me this chance to clarify my ideas.

In your correspondence, you caution me about generalizations and assumptions I make, both intentional and unintentional. Specifically, you question my assertion that many students in this class are transfers from two-year colleges. You also suggest that I may be stereotyping you and your classmates as inferior students.

Rest assured, I am aware that you and every student in this class have a unique history. Yet I am also aware that we are not together in this classroom by mere chance. The makeup of students in this class is an example of a seldom-acknowledged generalization about higher education: that there is a social structure that operates just below our awareness, one that shapes our lives in ways we only dimly perceive.

I refer to social class.

The truth is that 11 of the 15 members in this class, including you, have attended community or technical colleges. None has attended a private college and only one has attended a research university. Some have also attended state universities like Wisconsin-Eau Claire, Minnesota-Mankato or AlabamaState. My point wasn’t that you and your classmates have intellectual shortcomings but that there is a powerful process of social stratification in higher education. Like it or not, this academic pecking order rewards and punishes entire categories of students just because of who they are.

MetropolitanStateUniversity and its students are seriously disadvantaged by this ranking system. Like schools of similar status, MetroState has a disproportionate number of undergraduates who are first-generation college students, a larger percentage of learners who were not blessed with a college-prep program in high school, and a significant number who had adult responsibilities thrust upon them early in life, responsibilities that hindered them from immediately attending college. And this is exactly why schools like MetropolitanState are so often punished: When it comes to the ranking (and funding) of colleges and universities, demographics are destiny.

These characteristics say nothing about the intelligence or potential of our students, who have fully as much ability as students at the University of Minnesota, Augsburg College, Hamline University and even Harvard or Yale. Regrettably, intellectual capability and the opportunity to develop that gift are two different matters.

Schools at the top, like Ivy League universities and private colleges such as Carleton and Macalester, exist for the children of privilege. There are exceptions, but most of their students have considerable cultural, if not economic, capital. The justification is that the students at these institutions are there because of “merit.” But what “merit” often means is that someone has had every opportunity and advantage. This point was memorably made by Texas populist Jim Hightower when he noted the “success” of President George H.W. Bush (Yale 1948)—”He was born on third base and thought he hit a triple.”

Schools in the next tier, including the University of Minnesota, Hamline and Augsburg, are designed for young people of middle-class heritage, those who were born on second base. The next rung down the ladder is where Metropolitan State, Wisconsin-Eau Claire and Minnesota-Mankato reside. Community and technical colleges are on the lowest tier. These last two strata are for those born on first base or glad just to get up to the plate.

None of this is to say you cannot get a fairly good education at most any school. What it does mean, however, is that resources, prestige of faculty, learning opportunities and reputation are inequitably distributed. Like the critters in “Animal Farm,” all colleges and universities are equal, but some colleges and universities are more equal than others.

How do teachers at non-elite institutions respond to these affronts? On the one hand, there are faculty members who teach at these “low-status” colleges and universities because they couldn’t get hired at more prestigious schools. Fueled by their belief in the pecking order and filled with resentment over their humble station, these professors assume that the students at these institutions have a limited capacity for learning.

On the other hand, there are those of us who thumb our noses at the ranking system. We wouldn’t teach at those silver-spoon schools even if we had the chance. Our goal is to prove that our students are not only as smart and as capable as students anywhere, but that they deserve excellence in teaching along with high standards for learning. What’s more, we feel our students are usually a lot more interesting and more likely to change the world.

It is both disenchanting and liberating to discover higher education’s dirty little secret. In addition to their mission of educating citizens, the unspoken function of America’s colleges and universities is maintaining class inequality. Sometimes we need to recognize unpleasant truths before change is possible. This is why, late in life, I returned to academia to earn an advanced degree and teach: my calling is to educate students of a certain class.

You asked me to believe in you. I do believe in you and in your classmates. Furthermore, I am an advocate for all of you. Does that mean I will go easy on you? On the contrary, I will hold this class of students to the highest standard. You deserve no less.

Best regards,


Monte Bute is a professor of sociology and social science at Metropolitan State University in St. Paul and Minneapolis.

Charting a new, job-friendly course for MnSCU

System’s faculty must buy in to train Minnesota’s workforce.

EDITORIAL BOARD, Star Tribune: November 23, 2013

Battleship MnSCU began to turn last week. As with any superliner, the initial change was almost imperceptible. But if the new direction set Wednesday by its governing board holds for the next several years, the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities system stands to do a better job delivering the most vital ingredient to the state’s future prosperity — more and better educated workers.

The new strategic plan, called “Charting the Future,” has the range and ambition befitting a big system with a big challenge. The latest projection by Georgetown University says that by the end of this decade, 74 percent of Minnesota’s jobs will require more than a high school diploma. That’s up from 69 percent today. That next 5-percentage-point boost won’t come easily. The state Office of Higher Education foresees little growth in high school graduates through the rest of this decade. The only growth in the ranks of 18- to 24-year-olds will be in segments of the population that have not been graduating from high school at levels close to Minnesota’s average.

Minnesotans look to their colleges and universities, and especially to MnSCU, to satisfy the economy’s workforce demands. MnSCU leaders could have responded to that challenge by defending the status quo, blaming the K-12 system, or asking taxpayers or tuition payers for more money. It did none of those things. Instead, Chancellor Steven Rosenstone and the board of trustees assigned a series of work groups to collect ideas and input from hundreds of stakeholders in the last year around the question: What can we do differently to ensure access, shore up quality and stay affordable to all Minnesotans?

Their recommendations, which now have the force of MnSCU policy, are geared to produce a more efficient and effective educational engine. The vision:

• Curricula will be better coordinated throughout the system, giving more students the benefit of best practices, wider access to courses, and a guarantee that they can move seamlessly from one MnSCU institution to another. Nasty surprises about course credits that cannot transfer within the system should become a bad memory.

• Students will graduate not only with traditional degrees but also with certification of the skills and competencies they acquired. Competency certification will not be dependent on time spent in class, allowing students the opportunity to gain validation of their life experiences and to hasten degree completion.

• More online instruction will be available, and all 430,000 students will have more exposure to technology-enhanced pedagogy.

• Educational support will be better tailored to the circumstances of students from underserved populations and part-time adult learners.

• The system’s 54 campuses will combine back-office functions to achieve cost-saving efficiencies.

• Academic programs will work as partners with Minnesota businesses to build employee skills and solve real-world business problems.

• A new funding model will emerge that tamps down competition for students within the system and instead rewards colleges and universities for student success.

Some steps have already been taken in these directions. MnSCU board members touted the cost-saving potential of the system’s new Campus Service Cooperative for shared business practices and procurement; Rosenstone praised a 15-college collaboration that is offering high-quality online classes for early childhood teachers.

But much effort lies ahead for students, administrators and particularly faculty if “Charting the Future” is to live up to its transformative potential. A few months ago, faculty resistance to what was perceived as excessive centralization in an earlier draft of the plan threatened to derail it. Changes ensued to emphasize voluntary collaboration over central control. Those changes were sufficient for the state universities faculty union president Nancy Black to bless the new plan with tentative praise. “The core of ‘Charting the Future’ is solid,” she said.

Maintaining faculty trust and involvement is critical to the success of any plan for change in higher education. As this plan enters its implementation phase, MnSCU’s administration should commit to a high degree of transparency and faculty participation.

But MnSCU’s faculty should understand that they share a mission to serve Minnesota, in institutions that are accountable to the public. If they prove unwilling to take steps of MnSCU’s choosing to better meet the state’s workforce challenge, the Legislature has the power to dictate change of its own devising. Enlightened self-interest — and Minnesota’s interest — lies in the direction of constructive voluntary collaboration among academicians to meet “Charting the Future’s” goals.



Monte Bute: MnSCU overhaul to change way system does business – TwinCities.comnewsle.com

Monte Bute, a Metropolitan State University professor, said he worries the process going forward will be too “chancellor-centric”: He noted Rosenstone will produce a preliminary implementation plan before bringing in other members of the MnSCU community to flesh it out. http://newsle.com/article/0/103945267/