MCTC Honored as a “Top Innovator” for Transit Pass Program

MCTC's Scott Erickson and Gary Westerland

MCTC's Scott Erickson, Gary Westerland

Minneapolis Community and Technical College, Minnesota State University Moorhead and the Northeast Higher Education District were honored Wednesday by the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities chair of the Board of Trustees as the top innovators of the year.

MCTC received the top innovator award for our Go-To-College Transit Pass program. Launched in December 2006, with about 400 student participants, the program seeks to reduce the number of cars driven to campus and parked in the college’s ramp. By spring 2011, more than 3,700 students – about 30 percent of the college’s student population – had purchased the $84-a-semester passes, which provide unlimited rides, 24 hours per day, seven days a week, on all Metro Transit buses and light rail. The college subsidizes the passes by providing $92 for each pass through bookstore revenues, student life fees and enrollment growth funds. The pass has created new opportunities to increase access to higher education, ease financial stress and encourage environmental awareness.

“We are honored to receive this award,” said MCTC President Phil Davis. “This innovative project, led by Director of Auxiliary Services Gary Westerland, reflects MCTC’s commitment to environmental sustainability and helps our students by offering a financially reasonable transportation option to our campus.”

This is the first time the Celebration of Innovation Awards have been conferred by Chair Scott Thiss. One state university and eight other state colleges also were recognized for innovative achievements.

“We can’t underestimate the importance of innovation in our system, particularly given current economic conditions,” said Board Chair Scott Thiss. “And though our faculty and staff have been coming up with innovative programs, services and processes for decades, we have not recognized these efforts adequately until recently.

“This award also is an opportunity to encourage innovation and risk taking in a wide variety of forms. Generating fresh solutions is part of the intellectual capital that will help our colleges and universities – and ultimately our students – maintain Minnesota’s competitive edge,” he said.

“This award is just one manifestation of the Board of Trustees’ strategic direction that supports innovation to meet current and future educational needs,” said Chancellor James H. McCormick. “We recognize innovation as an important part of the continuous improvement culture that we work to cultivate.”

The process of selecting the top innovators began with nominations by presidents of system colleges and universities. Innovation is intentionally not further defined because the award is designed to broadly recognize and appreciation innovations of all types. A screening committee narrowed the submissions to the top contenders, which were presented to the board chair, who made the final selections.

More information is available on the MnSCU news release.

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