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New campus provost looking forward to joining community

Peter Wielinski believes actions speak louder than words and he intends to be a man of action. His immediate goal is public relations - he wants to be the glove that fits the hand of Wadena community.

M State-Wadena's new provost and chief student services officer has spent the last 19 years in the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities (MNSCU) system -- first at Vermilion Community College in Ely and then Lake Superior College in Duluth. His position as vice president of strategic planning with Lake Superior took him into the realm of shepherding administration and campus constituents to engage in a process by which they identified a limited number of directions that they saw ourselves heading. Those directions would help guide the institution in prioritizing how it spent its money, how it allocated its personnel resources and which initiatives and projects they would support, he said.

"Lots of people have lots of ideas within a campus where there are some brilliant minds," Wielinski said. "If you have the college heading in too many directions it ends up really doing none of them well."

While colleges develop their own curriculum, like high schools they also have to answer to the state of Minnesota and the federal government in order to award financial aid money and serve as an accredited institution.

As chief student services officer for M State's four campuses and its eCampus online program, Wielinski is responsible for the overall vision and direction of student services, working with the college's chief academic officer to ensure high-quality experiences for students.

As provost in Wadena, Wielinski provides campus leadership in developing and implementing academic programs and student support services and has the lead role in developing and maintaining strong community relations and partnerships.

"I plan to directly connect with community members, area education providers and industry partners to talk about the mutual benefits of building new relationships and enhancing existing relationships," said Wielinski, who has already begun walking about Wadena to meet business and community members face to face.

Wielinski joins the campus at a time funding for higher education in Minnesota is tight.

The tuition cost which a student pays to come to a MNSCU institution covers approximately 57 percent of the actual cost of their education the other 43 percent comes from the state budget all with one purpose - to provide an affordable education to the citizenry of the state.

"As economic times have changed we have had to become more creative and more efficient as well," Wielinski said.

The state of the economy has meant cuts in the MNSCU system's budget. This has led to higher tuition costs for students and sharing services between campuses.

Wielinski has heard the rumors about the M State-Wadena campus closing but he sees a fairly good financial picture at his new campus. At this point, M State Wadena wants to grow and that requires a provost on campus. When Chris Valdez, who was the provost of not only the Wadena campus, but also Fergus Falls, Detroit Lakes and Moorhead took a position with Edison College in Ohio, Wadena went after its own provost.

"They said 'we need our own provost if we are to grow,'" Wielinski said.

What Wielinski has found at M State-Wadena is not only a good retention rate but a good graduation rate - despite the fact that the college has had to make many tough decisions.

M State-Wadena has both full and part-time students of many different ages. Many students are pursuing two-year degrees but others are planning to take their credits from M State and go after four-year degrees.

Wielinski is married with two children. His wife, Katie, is currently working toward a hospital receptionist degree after 30 years of working as a cosmetologist. His son, Ted, is pursuing a degree in English education and will be taking his two years' worth of credits from Lake Superior to St. Cloud State this fall. His daughter, Maddie, will be a senior in Two Harbors, Minn. Katie and Maddie will be staying in Two Harbors until her senior year is over. In addition to being a soccer player, Maddie is in the Post-Secondary Enrollment Options (PSEO) program which allows high school students with good grade point averages to earn college credits. Maddie's vocational interest at this point is physical therapy.

Wielinski earned his doctorate in educational administration from Capella University's School of Education, his master's degree in guidance and counseling from the University of Wisconsin - Superior and his bachelor's degree in theatre arts from the University of Minnesota - Twin Cities.

Wielinski wants all the feedback he can get from the community in how to strengthen M State-Wadena's programs.

A big part of the job this summer is going to be integrating himself into the Wadena community. He wants to meet a lot of people through clubs and other functions. He has an interest in theater and while he has done his share of theatrical work "behind the scenes" -- he laughed that he has been known to "get up on the stage."

For right now, that stage is M State-Wadena.