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Five to watch in higher ed and high tech

New technology always brings with it the challenge of educating the existing and future entrants to the workforce. Education and technology often work hand-in-hand to meet these demands for growth locally.

Five Rochester locals are up to the challenge, and they'll be the ones to watch in 2011.

Gaining room to grow business

The Minnesota Biobusiness Center, which opened in 2009 in downtown Rochester, has been a boon to Mayo by providing space for companies wanting to work with Mayo technologies.

"The space and downtown location  helps bring companies to Rochester," explained Steve Van Nurden, chairman of the Office of Intellectual Property for Mayo Clinic Health Solutions, "which brings more opportunities to build relationships with other start-ups." Mayo Clinic Office of Intellectual Property is the division of Mayo Clinic responsible for patenting and commercializing Mayo Clinic’s intellectual property using conventional licensing agreements, industry collaborations, and investing in start-ups built around Mayo Clinic technologies.


About 40 companies have been started, Van Nurden said, including one, Regen Theranostics, housed in the Minnesota BioBusiness Center.

Partnering with start-ups like ReGen Theranostics, Mayo licenses Mayo technology to the startup company, who then creates a product that can be utilized in the health care industry. Asked whether there was a positive outlook in 2011 for more partnerships like this, Van Nurden’s response was optimistic. "We hope so," he replied.

Adapting to meet demand

Craig Johnson, director of Winona State University-Rochester’s program, seeks to provide programs that not only meet students’ needs but also meet local market needs.

This provides not only an education for their students but better job prospects as well. Due to student and industry demands in health care, WSU-Rochester has seen a dramatic 50 percent increase in enrollment in its nursing class.

Looking forward to the fall 2011 semester, they expect to see another enrollment increase in both the four-year program and the Registered Nurse completion program for nursing students.

WSU-Rochester also has a strong relationship with Rochester Community and Technical College.

"Where RCTC has a strong trend in enrollment," Johnson said, "we look to see how we can pair up with that program."


RCTC is a stronger provider of online education, while WSU-Rochester is a more traditional in-classroom school, although Johnson said it is starting to add more online classes.

New programs for high-tech needs

Dr. Claudia Neuhauser, Vice Chancellor of Academic Affairs for the University of Minnesota Rochester, oversees the development of academic programs the UMR campus.

To address the growing shortage of health care professionals, UMR partnered with the Mayo School of Health Sciences to develop a Bachelor of Science in Health Professions program.

This program prepares students to become certified health professionals in allied health fields.

Currently accepting applications the tracks of Respiratory Care and Echocardiography, UMR will expand next year to include Sonography and Radiography. This will establish UMR as having the only baccalaureate level programs in those areas in the state of Minnesota.

"The Bachelor of Science in Health Professions is UMR's high tech-high touch degree program," stated Dr. Claudia Neuhauser, Vice Chancellor of Academic Affairs, "as it infuses the use of technology and sophisticated equipment into patient care settings."

The upper division courses in these areas will train students to use innovative diagnostic and therapeutic technology and techniques.


UMR shares faculty with Mayo School of Health Science and will also train students in the delivery of the high quality patient care. Graduates will be trained in areas of workforce need and should be able to get jobs right after graduation.

Expanding future minds into science

James Sonju, principal of the Lincoln K-8 Choice school in Rochester, was named the 2011 Science and Mathematics Elementary and Middle Level Principal of the Year, because of an innovative zebrafish study project at his school.

The award from the Science Museum of Minnesota and the Minnesota Elementary School Principals’ Association recognizes individuals who foster science and math literacy in their schools.

Through a study of the zebrafish, Sonju worked with the teaching staff to create a curriculum vertically aligned across all disciplines. Besides science, the project involved working on calculations during math class and writing reports in language arts, and even social studies got involved by teaching the historical significance of important scientific discoveries.

Collaborative partnerships between educators and scientists are key to bringing this kind of experience into the classroom, Sonju said.

These partnerships require commitments from scientists to give time to share and teach their work and from teachers willing to "step outside of their classroom to experience authentic science," Sonju said..

"Based on our experience and our successful results so far," he said, "this commitment is worth any investment a community is willing to put into it."


Expanding knowledge online … and around the world

There is a saying in social media that you go "where the people are."

Online communities are having conversations whether your organization is present or not. Lee Aasehas made a name for himself in the rapidly growing world of social media, as he leads Mayo Clinic’s online conversation through Mayo’s Center for Social Media.

Under his guidance, Mayo Clinic has adopted social media for health-related purposes with the goal of spreading the word about Mayo and its health advances worldwide.

For him, going where the people are involves expanding to more locations than more well-known sites like Facebook.

"We’re looking for places where people already gather together," said Aase, "non-general purpose locations that cater to communities around specific conditions or diseases."

Online networks like these allow patients to mingle with others who are going through the same experiences and provide a support network.

In addition, Mayo is also pulling together a network of other health providers.


To that end, Mayo Clinic has expanded the Social Media advisory board from 25 members to 30 members. Seventeen new additions recently were announced on the socialmedia.mayoclinic.org blog.

Members bring experience from various industries including health-related associations, medical schools, and technology. "Mayo isn’t looking just to teach," he explained, "Mayo can also learn from these other organizations."

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