Partnership Center Opening

The Ribbon Cutting Ceremony at Normandale's Partnership Center

Partnership Opening Marks Beginning of New Era

The newest campus facility—the $23-million, 76,000-square-foot Partnership Center—will host new, innovative programs enabling Normandale students to earn bachelor’s and master’s degrees on campus in engineering and other disciplines.

by Steve Geller

A Closer Look | Getting Started | Stunning Glass Sculpture

From left, Normandale Finance & Operations VP Ed Wines, Office of Higher Ed Director Larry Pogemiller, Normandale Academic Affairs VP Julie Guelich, Student Senate President Nick Schneider doing the cutting, MnSCU Chancellor Steven Rosenstone, Normandale President Joe Opatz.
Photo by Jerry Holt

On February 7, 2013, Normandale Community College celebrated the opening of the Partnership Center. Completion of the Partnership Center marked the end of a two-year stretch during which Normandale added nearly $50 million in new campus facilities. The new center brings 27 classrooms, new engineering labs, faculty offices, and more student-gathering spaces to the college. It also increases the potential capacity of Normandale by 2,880 students. But more importantly, it will house new programs that enable Normandale students to earn four-year degrees and master's degrees on campus.

"Allowing bachelor's and master's degrees to happen here in partnerships with other MnSCU campuses, particularly Minnesota State University, Mankato and Metro State, is important to the future of Higher Education," said Larry Pogemiller, director of the Minnesota of Higher Education, as part of his speech at the grand opening. "And the idea that Customized Training will have more opportunities through this facility also really helps the workforce."

Minnesota State Mankato and Metro State University are already on board with several four-year program partnerships. Minnesota State Mankato will be offering Communication Studies and running the Twin Cities Engineering (TCE) program, while Metro State will offer classes in Accounting, Business Administration, and Advanced Dental Therapy in the building. The Partnership Center will also provide space for Normandale's Accounting, Business, and Hospitality programs, and its Continuing Education and Customized Training program.

Partnership Instructor Puteri Hamari with students Tom Kloss, Anne Mongare

From left: Tom Kloss, Anne Mongare and Minnesota State Mankato engineering instructor Puteri Hamari.
Photo by Sandy May

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A Closer Look at the Twin Cities Engineering (TCE) Program

At the heart of the new programs is the exciting new TCE program, which will be open to two-year college students throughout the Twin Cities Metro area. Modeled on the highly successful Iron Range Engineering program (IRE: an educational partnership between Minnesota State, Mankato and Itasca Community College), TCE is expected to attract a lot of attention and a high rate of participation from students and industry partners across the Twin Cities.

"I believe this is a cutting-edge program that can serve as a national model of engineering education," said Becky Bates, director of the TCE program and chair of Minnesota State Mankato's Integrated Engineering Department. "One of the questions of a good education model is how can you transfer it to a different context. By creating this TCE program, we can see how it can transfer and the changes we need to make to have it work with a different set of conditions."

Bates, who had worked with the IRE program, knows that it will take a lot of work to build up the TCE program but she is excited about the potential of having this model available to the companies and industry in the Twin Cities.

Normandale's Partnership Center

Left to right: Normandale Foundation Chair Robert Gibbs, President Joe Opatz, Bloomington Mayor Gene Winstead.
Photo by Jerry Holt

Engineering has always been a field that stressed the importance of involving project-based learning in the curriculum; however, the IRE model has built its entire curriculum around this method. Their tagline is "Learning Engineeering by Doing Engineering," and it has put an emphasis on teaching students how to learn by executing projects with their peers and with business and industry partners.

TCE will follow in their footsteps, teaching technical competencies and ensuring that students will have an understanding of engineering principles, just like other engineering programs. However, as they do in IRE, students in TCE will also learn professional skills, complete projects for area businesses and industry clients, and explore the technical knowledge needed for each one of those projects (one per semester for four semesters). The result will be a deeper understanding of the many different skills it takes to succeed in the workplace.

Normandale's Partnership Center

Student hosts from the Hospitality Management program greet Normandale Business Dean Michael Kirch
Photo by Jerry Holt

The TCE program model focuses on three different aspects of learning, but the main focus will be on students completing projects that meet the needs of clients who partner with the program. This will allow TCE students to gain a professional experience working on projects with businesses and companies as undergraduates. Clients also understand that the focus of the program is to support overall student learning.

When the program was created, it was modeled on programs at Aalborg University in Denmark. Ron Ulseth, director of curriculum for IRE, and members of the advisory board traveled to Denmark to see how a project-based learning curriculum functioned in that environment. They brought back many ideas of how a version of the Aalborg model could work in the IRE program. Now, Normandale is adapting that model for TCE.

"The way the program is centered on project-based learning, coupled with classes on technical competencies and workplace skills such as public speaking and writing, I'm confident this model will produce well-rounded students who will make a smooth transition to the workplace," said Ulseth.

"I'm confident this model will produce well-rounded students who will make a smooth transition to the workplace."

Ron Ulseth
Iron Range Engineering program curriculum director

The ultimate test of IRE and the TCE's effectiveness is how the programs are received by the industry. The IRE's first two classes of students graduated in December of 2011 and May 2012. At this point, 23 of the 24 students are either working in the industry or attending engineering graduate school.

As part of the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology (ABET) accreditation procees, Ulseth sent surveys to each of the graduate's employers. They gave the employers 11 categories to rank the employees with values from 1-5. The average ranking the students received was a 4, with a quarter of the scores ranking a 5, a quarter ranking at 3 and half of them at 4.

"The survey of our graduate's employers was great feedback for our program," said Ulseth. "Prior to that, most of the data was anecdotal."

One of the students from the first generation of IRE is Erin Lamke. Lamke had the opportunity to go through the program when it was starting in 2010. Lamke worked on two projects at Medtronic during her time in the program. After her first project, she applied for an internship with Medtronic. Lamke was able to get the internship because of the references she had from the first project with the company. When she graduated from the program, she went to work for Medtronic and is currently employed with the company.

"On top of helping me get my job, I can say I am where I am today because of IRE," said Lamke. "The opportunities I received through the program helped a great deal, but I also felt like the emphasis on technical competencies and the development of professional skills really helped prepare me for the industry."

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Getting Started

"Everyone we talked to about TCE is really excited. There is a great potential for this program to make a measureable impact on the Twin Cities."

Puteri Megat Hamari
Twin Cities Engineering instructor

With the opening of the Partnership Center in January, the TCE program is beginning to take shape. Minnesota State Mankato hired Puteri Megat Hamari as the first instructor for the program, and plans to hire another instructor for the fall semester. Hamari got her Ph.D. degree and had project-based teaching experience at Vanderbuilt University, and worked in the industry for Motorola in Malaysia.

She is currently teaching the first generation of the TCE, which has started out with four Normandale graduates. They started their first month of the program at the IRE site to be exposed to different learning experiences, before returning to the Partnership Center in mid-February. Currently, they are going through the same experiences as the sixth generation of IRE.

"This program will need time to grow, but everyone we have talked to about TCE is really excited," said Hamari. "The way the curriculum is being taught is something new and exciting, and in the next two to three years, I think there is a great potential for this program to make a measurable impact in the Twin Cities."

Normandale has consistently produced a high number of students who transfer into four-year engineering programs. What has made the TCE such an exciting project is the ability to have a state-of-the-art program on campus that gives students the option to stay in the area, earn their four-year degree, and work with the great companies of the Twin Cities.

"It is very exciting to be involved in something so cutting edge," said Normandale engineering instructor Derek Steele. "There is not really anything like the IRE and TCE programs nationally. I think the opportunity to host this program and be involved in this partnership is going to build on our already strong academic reputation and raise our profile further."

The second generation of the TCE will consist of 14 students and will begin in fall 2013. The TCE is an exciting program for the engineering industry of the Twin Cities, and a good representation of the great programs that will be finding a home in the Partnership Center.

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Normandale Partnership Center's Glass Sculpture

Stunning Glass Sculpture Graces Partnership Center

The first thing one sees when walking into the main hallway of the Partnership Center is a glass architecture piece by award-winning sculptor and architect Alexander Tylevich. Tylevich was selected during the planning stages of the Partnership Center, by a call for artists through Minnesota’s Percent for Art program. His site-specific sculpture lights up a two-story expanse of windows at the main entrance to the Partnership Center.

Tylevich explained his sculpture as follows:

Sculpture Alexander Tylevich"The installation is symbolic of a collection of exotic flowers and leaves suspended by stainless steel cables to fill the entire height of the space. The “leaves” of the installation are made of several materials of different colors and textures, and issue a dichroic effect. The installations are unified by letters, numerals, and other symbols of Normandale’s college curriculum, imbedded within the artistic 'leaves.'"

Find Out More: For more information about bachelor’s and master’s programs in Normandale’s Partnership Center, call 952-358-8200.