Ron Wood has been a resident of southwestern Minnesota for more than a decade and served as president of Minnesota West in Worthington for 10 years, making him a perfect fit for the interim president position at Southwest Minnesota State University. You could almost say it was a match made in heaven.
Wood not only understands and appreciates the significance of SMSU to the region, he understands and appreciates the region itself. He sees the region as a potential engine for renewable energy as it relates to the agricultural industry and wants the agronomy program - which was on the cusp of being eliminated two months ago - to grow into a healthy and vital piece of what SMSU has to offer students, saying the university should take bold steps to ensure that it grows and becomes a stronger program while holding onto a strong liberal arts core.
Wood also knows the door that has been opened to him - should the MnSCU Board of Trustees accept the chancellor's recommendation - will lead to many challenges as MnSCU continues to study and explore possible monumental changes to the current institutional configuration at SMSU and surrounding technical colleges that may or may not include consolidation and administrative alignment.
As a self-proclaimed puzzle solver, Wood, who has a strong background in economics, is ready to hear about ideas that could reshape higher education in southwest Minnesota, and he firmly believes each school involved in potential future restructuring can hold true to their cultural integrity and values. He will demand as much.
"My belief is that each higher education institution has a culture that is unique to it,"?Wood said. "I think you can blend several cultures without losing the identity of these campuses."
Big challenges lie ahead for higher education and tough decisions will be made. But SMSU and other college campuses in southwest Minnesota, we believe, has a friend in Wood - a friend who wants to make a positive impact in the short amount of time he'll spend in leading the university through a major transition period.