Sitting down with President Davenport

David Bassey
Editor in Chief

Last month at the Verizon Center, the men’s hockey team got to showcase their latest bounty, the MacNaughton cup. In attendance at this event were fans, players and supporters of MSU hockey and athletic community. 

Amongst others, it was great seeing the President and his wife, Mary Davenport looking dashing as always in their custom-made hockey jerseys. Beaming with smiles so resplendent and the notable athletic and academic achievements accrued so far, it’s no wonder whether President Davenport is having a great year so far.

We wanted to know what’s been going on and what’s yet to come at MNSU. We asked him many questions ranging from his personal interests to the impact he would like to leave on the University. This is what he had to say;

R: How do you spend your holidays?

D: Christmas – Like most people, the University is closed but I spent part of the time coming down here and taking a more casual approach to getting caught up on stuff and of course, the phone’s not ringing, nobody’s here and it’s a great time to kind of refresh and get caught up. I have a son living in Chicago, so we travelled there to spend part of the holidays with him. I read a couple of books and I just relaxed.

Valentines’ Day – Although I wouldn’t recommend it. I worked all day and then got to spend quality time with my wife on Friday. We got to view the snow moon. We love that stuff!

R: What are your thoughts on the city’s transitions in the GMG and Mayoral offices? How will it impact the University?

D: Under his [Jonathan Zierdt’s] leadership, the city has flourished. It’s really been outstanding. Jonathan’s work is hard to replace. He’s a super guy! He’s an inspiration to everybody and he needs to be widely applauded for the success that he has brought to our community.

The partnership with the University is very solid, we know the importance of the university to the city and we also know how important the city is to the university.

The new mayor Najwa replaces Eric Anderson who was in that role for a period of time and he also was an outstanding leader and in the field and he really raised the important questions in terms of the direction the city is taking and got the city to focus on their the future. The replacement with a new mayor. I am also very encouraged with Najwa’s leadership. She has served on many committees and boards and I think she’ll bring a new vision to the city of Mankato and now as well. I think I can only look forward to a great leadership from her and the city and we will continue to promote the outstanding partnerships that we have.

R: Let’s talk about books and your day-to-day life. What books are you currently reading?

D: Well there’s two of them. When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi. It’s kind of a science or medically focused book about the status of modern medicine today and it is it’s really quite good. Although it doesn’t have a lot to do with the University; as a student, I thought I’d go into medical school, but I didn’t go and decided to do this. It keeps me abreast in the research developments in the area of medicine.

The second is a non-fiction book about James J Hill. He was what you’d call a railroad baron in Minnesota’s early days. He was able to allow the flour mills to flourish, which were a big part of the evolutionary development of the of Minnesota in general and farmers in ag to provide the transportation to move the products around the country.

As an avid reader, I read at least three newspapers everyday as I pour my cup of coffee; Wall Street Journal, Star Tribune, our local newspaper and a combination of online ones. If I don’t read the newspapers, I feel like I’m not starting the day right.

R: What are your goals for the University now that the sesquicentennial celebration is over, what are your goals for the University?

D: We have multiple set of goals and some of those goals that are rising to the top of the list certainly include what we call enrollment management. Maybe with one or two exceptions, we have students that enroll here from every state from all 50 states of the US, and we also have students that come here from 90+ countries. We have a lot of underrepresented students, students of color students that come from different backgrounds. This has become kind of a destination for a very, very diverse campus. 

One of our goals is to make certain that it stays as an attractive campus for students from all over the world. That’s really a major goal. 

R: What do you hope your legacy to be?

D: What I would like my legacy to be is creating the kind of global high-quality campus.

Our goal is to create a university where students, when they leave feel like they really made a good investment coming here and that they’re able to go forward with those big ideas and make a difference in the world whether it’s in the US or Minnesota or anywhere around the world.

Some of the other pieces that is kind of a big level goal for this year is to get our proposal for replacement of Armstrong Hall.

One of our major divisions in terms of campus facilities to plan this summer to open-up the mall going to Val Imm Dr. We want to modernize the area hopefully all goes well, so students can walk through and have a beautiful place to sit.

Making sure that we helpe more students to continue from year to year to year until they graduate. We want to sort of help the students that are leaving the campus for lots of reasons. One of the biggest reasons was, they can’t afford to stay in school which we’re trying to address. How can we help them to stay in school and continue? The other issue is students leave for a lot of reasons and we were trying to tackle the problems. 

For example, if you can’t get the classes you want you might leave if you can’t get into your major or personal family issues and so forth, but the areas that we really want an impact in is advising with our new advisory core. We really want to have a more personal relationship with our students and we’re asking our faculty to play an even bigger role in that as well as staff.

So that’s something you’re going to hear a lot more about them. I’m very excited about that because I I think we can do better than what we currently doing in terms of enrollment management or retention for enrollments.

I really want to make a difference in and solidify a few things that will put the position for the university in a very positive position statewide to be the leader in higher education for state universities. We still have some work to do.

We have one of the most beautiful campuses one of the most modern campuses, but we’re also growing and here’s a challenge that I want to try and accomplish before I leave; that is, to continue to grow enrollment to stabilize the university and to retain students and to graduate more students than we currently do.

Header photo by Mansoor Ahmad | MSU Reporter.

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