Gores anticipates move to SMSU

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Gores looks forward to her future beyond Winona State.                  Bartholome Rondet/Winonan
Gores looks forward to her future beyond Winona State. Bartholome Rondet/Winonan

Daniel Cockriel
Winonan

Even as Winona State University enters a period of significant transition, its focus remains its students, Vice President Connie Gores said at Winona State University last Thursday.

Gores is Winona States’s vice president for Student Life and  Development and served  president during summer 2012. On

February 26 it was announced that Gores had accepted the position of president at Southwest Minnesota State University, which she will officially begin on July 1.

“I’m continuing to wear purple,” Gores said. “While I’m here, WSU and its students are my primary focus.”

Gores has made one brief visit to SMSU since the announcement and will make another visit at the end of May. She said she credits the work of the current interim president at SMSU for allowing her to remain centered on Winona State.

This impending transition will mean big changes both for Connie Gores personally and for Winona State as a whole.

This change will bring Gores closer to her family including three brothers living in Fargo, but particularly her mother, with whom Gores is close.

“Being the oldest daughter/child, I really feel better about being closer to my mother, and therefore being more available in potential times of need,” Gores said.

Gores’s departure will also have a profound effect on Winona State.

“I believe my departure helps give President Olson the opportunity to truly shape his cabinet here at the WSU,” Gores said. “He is deeply devoted to student development, and this will allow him to decide how the student experience will move forward under his leadership. This is truly an opportunity to sculpt his own future for the University.”

Although Gores’s energy and focus remain squarely on Winona, she is excited to face the challenges of leading SMSU.
SMSU is an institution of growing momentum, and Gores is eager to help move them to the next level.

“I’m energized and inspired by what I’ve seen so far, and I’m excited for the opportunity to truly make a difference by taking the experiences I have gathered here at WSU and building on them at SMSU,” Gores said.

Compared to Winona State, SMSU has a smaller student population, with roughly 3,500 on-campus students, as well as 3,000 students participating in online and distance learning (the second highest number in the state, behind only the University of Minnesota).

Another difference between the institutions is that SMSU offers a variety of niche programs not offered at Winona State, such as Master’s of Business Administration and a variety of agricultural programs. But similarily, SMSU is home to many first generation college students, and is well known for civic engagement among students, Gores said.

Though the process of selecting a replacement vice president is primarily the decision of President Olson, Gores believes the next vice president should possess certain important qualities.

“I think an ideal replacement would be someone who is a strategic visionary with the ability to connect with students, staff and the community,” Gores said. “They should be a person who listens, engages and connects with the campus community…someone who respects students and delights in being around them.”

There are a number of capable and deserving candidates, and the president may appoint an interim vice president while the search is conducted, Gores said.

“I gave my heart and soul to this place, and I love it,” Gores said. “I care deeply about this institution and everyone associated with it. I am very eager to begin serving SMSU, but I will miss Winona State.”

As Gores heads west, she will lose the bluffs of Winona. But in return she will regain the prairies of her youth, sunrises and sunsets, and she will always have a home in Winona.

“I’m confident that WSU will continue to flourish after I depart,” Gores said. “I’ll always have purple in my veins, even if I’m wearing brown and gold.”

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