ST. CLOUD — St. Cloud State University is undertaking new efforts to expand the way students interact with technology and how it prepares them for their careers.
Last week, St. Cloud State University introduced The Minnesota Institute of Technology at St. Cloud State University (TMIT@SCSU), a strategy to expand opportunities for students and put technology at the heart of the learning process across departments and disciplines.
The move "(marks) a significant expansion of interdisciplinary research and development of emerging technologies designed to solve problems and meet workforce demands," according to a press release from the university.
The three big components of TMIT@SCSU initiative are:
technology as a programmatic focus for all students
preparing students for a successful career
building partnerships with industries
Dr. Adel Ali, dean of the College of Science and Engineering and director of the School of Computing, Engineering and Environment, said students need to be prepared for the digital age, in which technology is not the sole domain of a specific set of disciplines. With TMIT@SCSU implemented, technology will be a programmatic focus for all students, he said. The implementation of TMIT@SCSU is to ensure students are exposed to the technology they'll be utilizing in the workforce.
"We are looking for the technology everywhere in the institution," Ali said.
The programs that are particularly tech-focused in nature will delve even deeper. Programs within the College of Science and Engineering already utilize industrial advisory councils of professionals in relevant industries who help the school stay up-to-date with developments in its fields. Ali said the hope is that this expands beyond the College of Science and Engineering for other tech-focused programs.
Partnerships and research have already been underway through SCSU's Integrated Science and Engineering Laboratory Facility (ISELF), a multi-disciplinary science facility that opened in 2013 and has since seen more than 6,000 students participate in projects with more than 100 external partners, according to the release from SCSU.
TMIT@SCSU is an effort to integrate those partnerships and learning processes across tech-focused disciplines on campus, Ali said.
"This is an expansion to the vision of ISELF," Ali said.
The plan is for TMIT@SCSU to unite programs within the school more systematically and consistently under a unifying vision.
"How do we make all of these programs and all of these facilities... work together in a collective, consistent way to move from scattered points of light to a laser beam of distinction?" Ali said.
Building industrial partnerships and solving real-world problems will be an essential part of the institute, Ali said. Through TMIT@SCSU, the university plans to develop new technology, as it has done in the past with ISELF.
Helping students achieve success
According to Ali, to be prepared for a successful career, students need to be educated with fundamental knowledge; special technical skills, tools and techniques; and lifelong learning skills. So part of TMIT@SCSU means evaluating students' course work and their extracurricular opportunities for how SCSU's offerings fit within these categories.
To build those lifelong skills — as well as the soft skills Ali said employers want students to have more of — students need experiential learning and discovery-based learning. That takes external partnerships and engaged teachers, Ali said.
TMIT@SCSU is one outcome of It's Time, a strategic vision launched by the university in 2019.
"It’s Time inspires our university to think and act in new and bold ways," Ali said in a follow-up email. "It allows us to create learning environments that stretch across disciplines and use cutting-edge technology that is focused on solving real-world problems."
For Ali, TMIT@SCSU is an example of the university's efforts to be a good "steward of place." This concept was put forth by the Association of American State Colleges and Universities and focuses on public engagement that is aware of its own communities' economies and societies; interactive; mutually beneficial for the public and the institution; and integrated among all levels of the institution.
He argues TMIT@SCSU helps the institution be a good steward of place because it is needed by the region and involves participation in the area's socioeconomic development. Awareness of changing demographics and a focus on equity and diversity is also part of being a good steward of place, Ali said.
"We believe that St. Cloud State has the responsibility to play an active role in addressing the unique needs, opportunities and challenges of our region through applied research and public scholarship," Ali said in a follow-up email. "(TMIT@SCSU) is an example of our commitment to this responsibility and further demonstrates how our students and faculty are creating positive change in our region and that can be used in communities across the country and world."
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This article originally appeared on St. Cloud Times: SCSU announces The Minnesota Institute of Technology. What is it?