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Announcing the Winner of the 2011 William Plater Award for Leadership in Civic Engagement

“In some ways the University of Minnesota, Duluth has been to Vince Magnuson what that 80 acre farm in Nebraska was to his parents. He wakes every day before sunrise and goes to work in the field of higher education – as a teacher for twenty-seven years and as an academic administrator for the past fifteen. He has quietly generated a bumper crop of liberally educated citizens.” – William Payne

By Cecilia M. Orphan, National Manager, American Democracy Project

Vince Magnuson, 2011 William Plater Award Winner

Each year we recognize a Chief Academic Officer (CAO) for their leadership in institutionalizing civic engagement on their campus. The William Plater Award for Leadership in Civic Engagement is designed to recognize the critical role of the chief academic officer in advancing the civic mission of the campus through curricular reform, public advocacy, accountability for institutional citizenship, faculty development and recruitment, and partnerships with community organizations.

The award, funded through the generosity of Indiana University Purdue University-Indianapolis, has been created to acknowledge the critical leadership role that chief academic officers play in serving as the vital link between the academic community (principally the faculty, staff and students) and the more externally oriented leadership of presidents, chancellors and trustees in helping make an institution intentional about its role in citizenship preparation. Through their leadership, chief academic officers align the work of faculty, the learning of students, and the achievements of staff with the public mission of AASCU institutions to prepare undergraduates as informed, engaged citizens. Chief academic officers make a critical difference in the articulation of purpose, in the alignment of actions, and in the quality, scope and effectiveness of institutional performance.

The Plater Award is the first national award established specifically to honor and recognize CAOs for their leadership in higher education.

This year we received a record number of outstanding nominations for the Plater Award. The Award Committee reported great difficulty in choosing one winner because the nomination pool was so strong. I am pleased to announce that after much deliberation, the award committee selected Vince Magnuson, Vice Chancellor for Academic Administration at the University of Minnesota, Duluth (UMD), as the recipient of the 2011 William Plater Award for Leadership in Civic Engagement. I have copied portions of the letter submitted by William Payne, Interim Dean, School of Fine Arts at UMD, in support of Vince’s candidacy for the award. As you will find when you read more about Vince, he has worked tirelessly to commit his campus to fostering civic outcomes for students. Vince is a dear friend and colleague of mine and I am delighted to see his diligence in preparing informed, engaged citizens honored by the Plater Award.

Vince Magnuson, Cecilia M. Orphan, George L. Mehaffy

Congratulations, Vince! You have certainly earned your place among past award winners.

For more information about the award including its criteria and past recipients, please visit this website.

Selected portions of Vince’s nomination written by his colleague William Payne:

Vince Magnuson has been a leader on the UMD campus reflecting all of the criteria outlined for the Plater Award. From 1995 until her retirement in 2010, Chancellor Kathryn Martin transformed the UMD campus. Chancellor Martin helped to build over ten new structures on the campus, including a library, music hall, and science and engineering buildings. It was a significant accomplishment. Vince was a big part of this revitalization of the campus. But he accomplished something equally important for the tens of thousands of students learn in these buildings. He has never wavered from his commitment to civic engagement and the education of the next generation of citizens.

Vince made sure that UMD was a member of the American Democracy Project as soon as he saw the invitation to join. He identified the people on campus who were already civically engaged as faculty and staff and supported their attendance at regional and national conferences. He led the discussion regarding how we might grow the curricular and co-curricular civic engagement program. With the help of faculty and staff, he provided the leadership and funding necessary to create the Office of Civic Engagement. He worked closely with the Steering Committee for OCE to perform a campus survey of activity, a working definition of civic engagement, and provided funding for mini-grants to help faculty integrate new community based learning strategies into curricula. He also serves ADP nationally as a member of the American Democracy Project Implementation Committee.

As Vice Chancellor, Vince made sure that civic engagement was a priority.  UMD invests approximately $250,000 annually in support of civic engagement efforts. UMD’s Office of Civic Engagement offers programming throughout the year in an effort to help prepare educated citizens and strengthen civic responsibility. In 2009-10 over 1800 students participated in courses with service learning components and over 2,000 volunteers provided 33,484 hours of direct service to the community. UMD now partners with over 60 different community organizations.

It helps to know who Vince is and how he became so capable. Vince was born in Laurel, Nebraska. In the 40’s and 50’s, his parents farmed eighty acres growing corn and oats and raising cows, pigs and chickens. They had no electricity or running water. He and his two brothers attended a one-room schoolhouse and participated in the work of the farm. As he entered his teens, his family had to move into town. Vince began working at the Northeast Nebraska Experimental Farm. He encountered science as a tool to feed the world. The mentor who gave him a ride to work began to bring textbooks for the ride. It was not long before Vince was enrolling in Wayne State College to study Chemistry.

The rigor of farm work is visible in the way Vince approaches his administrative work. He works sunrise to sundown, and knows how to nurture ideas and people from seedling to full bloom. His lifetime as a teacher and scientist help him take a reasoned, skeptical approach to administrative challenges, yet he never forgets the human component in everything he does. This combination of heart and mind, intelligence and compassion, an incredible work ethic coupled with a love of laughter and human expression, are the Vincent R. Magnuson that has transformed the University of Minnesota Duluth in his own way.

In some ways, UMD has been to Vince what that 80 acre farm in Nebraska was to his parents. He wakes every day before sunrise and goes to work in the field of higher education – as a teacher for twenty-seven years and as an academic administrator for the past fifteen. He has quietly generated a bumper crop of liberally educated citizens. And he has left the soil rich with the potential for harvests yet to come. The graduates of UMD will feed the world with critical minds filled with innovative ideas, with hands committed to serving their communities, and with hearts engaged with their fellow citizens. It should come as no surprise that, when asked what he will be doing after he retires this summer, Vince mentions spending more time with his family – and working in his garden.

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