New LSC head cites students’ career prep, connections to business, industry as priorities

Thursday, September 12, 2019

Main News Photo


For Business North


As Lake Superior College students return to classes this month, they are finding a new president at the helm of the community and technical college that overlooks the big lake and the St. Louis River Bay on Trinity Road in Duluth.

Patricia Rogers, who officially started July 1, said in an August interview with Business North that she has been “hitting the ground listening” as she seeks to “build on an already high-level of success.”

“Our college is in great shape. It is already very connected to the community, and especially to business and industry, and it’s already dedicated to student success.”

She wants to “build on what the next level” of success for the college might be, so she wants to hear from the community to find out “what’s next … where should we go. We are sitting in a great spot and we’re hungry to get to that next step.”

However, that doesn’t mean she’s just sitting in her office waiting for the phone to ring. She’s working on two fronts:

Ensuring students’ career success and building on those close connections to the region’s business and industry sectors.


Students: ‘Credentialing along the way’

To make sure that the college is “a destination for success” for students, particularly career success, Rogers talked about an approach she calls “credentialing along the way.”

“We have all kinds of pathways for students to be credentialed along the way — credit-based courses, customized training, certifications, etc.— we want to provide many pathways for students to reach their goals. Many students will choose the traditional route to a bachelor’s degree as full-time students, but we also need to let people know they have many other options.”

For instance, many students may complete some initial skills training before entering the work world, and then, at some point, go back and seek additional training, certification or education as needed.

“In other words, it’s having the option to take training and education in bite-size pieces,” Rogers said. “We also find that employers like this idea of credentialing along the way.”

Combined with this concept is focused career planning for students, said Hanna Erpestad, interim vice president for academic and student affairs, who has served the college in various administrative and teaching roles for 20 years.

“In today’s world, our role is to connect to career preparation.” Erpestad said that Rogers has emphasized, “The minute students start on our campus we need to connect them with career planning so that they have a meaningful path to success.”

As a community college, LSC must provide liberal arts education. But even in that context, Erpestad said, Rogers has careers in mind. “She says, ‘liberal arts are employment arts,’ because they teach critical thinking, analytical, and interpersonal skills. All of those skills are contributing to supporting students’ preparation for the working world.”

Rogers is also working to ensure “clean connections” are made with UMD, College of St. Scholastica and University of Wisconsin-Superior so LSC students can seamlessly transfer to those schools. Plus, she’s trying to bring selected four-year degree programs to the campus through partnerships with other schools such as Winona State, St. Cloud State and Bemidji State.


Business and industry: ‘Deepen ties’

Rogers pointed out that LSC is the second largest college in the region next to UMD. And Rogers points to some impressive data in a recent independent study to make her point that LSC is a major regional resource.

More than 10,000 full- and part-time students.

Nearly 400 employees (faculty and staff).

90-plus certificate, diploma and associate-degree programs.

Three other training facilities in Duluth besides the main campus.

A nearly $200 million annual economic impact.

Rogers said keeping and building on a strong relationship with business and industry is a priority.

“We are meeting the needs of our industry partners…and we want to deepen those relationships,” she said.

This is achieved through a stunning variety of programs and partnerships — continuing education offerings, customized training, workforce development options, certification programs, and more, all in addition to the full-time, credit-based programs.

And successful examples abound: Industry partnerships in aviation with Cirrus Aircraft, AAR and Delta Airlines; welding and CNC machining with Altec and Moline Machinery, and customized training partnerships in health care with Essentia and St. Luke’s health systems, just to name a few.

Rogers is also an advocate of the trades, which has been a core sector that LSC has served since its beginning as a vocational-technical institute.

“The trades have in the past taken a bad rap, but that’s all changing,” Rogers said. “People are realizing now, these jobs, these industries, are fundamental and foundational to everything we do.”

Rogers said higher education is in a period of dramatic change because of the changing needs of society. She believes, with the concept of credentialing along the way, that LSC is in a key position to play a pivotal role, both to help the region flourish and to support students’ success, no matter what their approach.

“We should celebrate the fact that people have different ways to achieve their goals,” she said.


From One Pat to Another

* Patricia Rogers is the new president of Lake Superior College, succeeding Patrick Johns, who had been the college’s leader since 2010.

* Age: 63

* Education: A Fulbright Scholar, Rogers holds bachelor’s and master’s degrees, and a Ph.D., all from the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities.

* Experience: Provost and vice president, Academic Affairs, Winona State University, since 2013; Before that, founding dean of Health Sciences and Human Ecology and the School of Graduate Studies at Bemidji State University (BSU). Also taught at BSU as a tenured faculty member.

* Enough About Work: Rogers and her wife, Wendy Larson, have been together for 34 years, married since 2013. They are looking forward to canoeing and kayaking on area lakes and hiking and exploring the region’s great outdoors.



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