“The Client.” “The Accomplice.” “The Whistler.”
If John Grisham’s next novel is “The College” -- and even if it’s not -- Dr. Marsha Danielson likely will be among the first people to purchase it.
“I’ve read every single book of his,” she confesses. “I like the courtroom drama.”
She might not get that next Grisham book read right away, however.
Danielson put casual reading aside for things strictly academic in nature this summer. A little over one month into her Minnesota State College Southeast presidency, she is laser focused on delving into the Red Wing and Winona campuses, reading reports, assessing needs, and exploring high impact practices reported in the Chronicle of Education.
Her enthusiasm decries any sense that this might be dry reading: She has high expectations for MSC Southeast and is seeking ideas to spur the college’s growth.
“I just had a conversation with my administrative staff about how part of the vision -- being ‘one college and two campuses’ -- is that we, as administrators, oversee both campuses,” not just where a person’s assigned office is, Danielson said. “We serve both communities and both campuses and all students. That’s so important.”
She set the tone July 1 by scheduling a minimum of two days a week on each campus, with the fifth workday dedicated to addressing an immediate need from whatever location makes the most sense.
Also, she and her husband chose Lake City as their home, conveniently located between the two communities 60 miles apart on the Mississippi River. One of the great premises behind Minnesota’s community and technical colleges, she notes, is that every resident lives within 30 miles of some higher education institution.
She knows well the value of post-secondary education and especially promotes the vital niche that community colleges fill -- access, affordability and quality. The seventh of 10 children, she was the first to attend college.
“What I learned with education is that it really opens doors for you,” She said.” I came to feel really blessed to have had that.”
Danielson has 25 years with the Minnesota State system. She’s worked in advancement, external relations, marketing and communications and, most recently, at South Central College in Mankato as vice president of economic development since 2016. There she was founding executive director of the Greater Mankato Diversity Council and active in numerous community efforts. She intends to be equally active here in Red Wing and Winona.
Following MSC Southeast Interim President Larry Lundblad was a natural step, she said.
“In fact, I tell people that I was waiting for this position and the reason I say that is because Larry Lundbland was my mentor for the Executive Leadership Program, which Minnesota State offers to prepare presidents,” said Danielson, who completed her doctorate in 2019. “He was excellent, and it really became mutually beneficial, because he was talking to me about things that they needed.”
She shared what was happening on the Faribault and North Mankato campuses there; he did the same here.
“He spoke so highly of the faculty and the staff,” she said, and now she does, too. “This is a very entrepreneurial faculty, staff and administration.”
Conversations have produced brainstorms, particularly on how to develop and leverage programs that benefit companies and benefit students. Training at the college, but also at the worksite.
Another one of Grisham’s titles comes to mind: “The Apprentice.”
“Those are exciting conversations for me,” she said. “It's all about opportunity. I’m a builder.”