WSU leader says this year is her last
WINONA — Winona State University President Judith Ramaley said Monday that this will be her last year as the university's leader, signaling a period of transition for the 8,500-student Winona campus and its Rochester branch.
"It's an ideal time to prepare the way for a new president because there couldn't be a better opportunity for someone who really wants to make a difference in higher education," said Ramaley.
Ramaley, 70, has featured a collaborative leadership style during her six-year tenure at WSU. She has opened new facilities and launched new academic offerings in health care and social work despite years of relentless pressures to cut budgets due to flat or declining state funding.
She calls her "pride and joy" a $19 million Integrated Wellness Center, a facility that opened last fall and houses a physical fitness center, health clinic and nutrition programs under a single roof. She estimated that the center draws 2,000 student-visitors a day, a number she predicted would grow over time.
Ramaley also has had a significant effect on higher education in the Rochester area. She set herself apart from previous WSU leaders by embracing and supporting the establishment of a four-year Rochester branch of the University of Minnesota, which many Winona leaders had viewed as a threat to Winona higher education and its economy.
"From my point of view, a community as complex as Rochester can not only benefit from different educational programming, but will benefit even more if we cooperate," Ramaley said.
Ramaley brought an extensive resume with her when she began her tenure in July 2005 as WSU's 14th president and first female president. Ramaley had served as president and professor of biology at the University of Vermont and at Portland State University.
Rochester Community and Technical College President Don Supalla said the announcement of Ramaley's impending resignation is "sad news for those of us at RCTC." RCTC and WSU's Rochester branch share facilities and collaborate to offer students a four-year experience at University Center Rochester.
"The partnership has never been stronger," Supalla said.
Seeing a need
Indeed, a couple of officials, including Supalla, referred to her leadership style and the collaborative model she pursues as "futuristic." UCR has hosted representatives from other universities who have traveled to Rochester to learn about ways to cooperate during a time of tight resources.
Ted Reilly, an assistant vice president for academic affairs for WSU's Rochester branch, cited an expansion of WSU-Rochester's social work program as an example of Ramaley's method of identifying a community need and meeting it.
"It takes quite a bit of political maneuvering to get financing and staffing in place for that and get the support of the rest of the institution," Reilly said.
Ramaley said her goal over the next year would be to leave WSU in "excellent condition" for a new president.
"I'm proud of what we've done, but we've got a lot more to do," she said.