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Minnesota State University, Mankato
Minnesota State University, Mankato

A View to the Future

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   Beth Wielde-HeidelbergInsitute Director: Dr. Beth Wielde-Heidelbeg

I knew URSI’s founder, Bob Barrett, as a graduate student in Urban Planning. I can still see him in his sweater vest, sitting in URSI’s office space grading stacks (and stacks, and stacks) of papers, laughing about some inside joke between him and Rita, the office administrator. This jovial, warm fellow had quietly built a highly innovative training center for planners and local managerial leaders that now serves communities across the globe and created a standard for all subsequent leaders to follow.
The University’s decision to merge the Urban and Regional Studies Institute with the Department of Government jarred me a bit. “What would Bob think?“ I stepped in to the leadership position knowing that the transition was going to challenge. Our focus was to make sure URSI’s traditions were upheld, service to students was uninterrupted, and that we maintained a strong presence in the community.
This change naturally comes with many questions. But mainly, we are, and will remain, the Urban and Regional Studies Institute, retaining our name, mission, and goals. Studio and internships will remain a cornerstone of the program, and an important connection between the department and professionals. URSI’s tradition of blending theory and practice to provide practical training for local government professionals will continue. We work with our NASPAA accreditors to ensure standards are met to retain accreditation. With new faculty coming to us from the former Public Administration program, we hope to expand our alumni outreach.
We did take the transition as an opportunity to rename the degree, however, to more descriptively address what the degree is actually all about. Students will soon be able to receive a Master of Arts in Local Leadership and Management (MLLM), reflecting the more specific local government management focus of the degree. The Master of Arts in Urban Planning (MAUP) remains the same, a pillar of the Institute and a place to train planning professionals for innovative careers.
So what would Bob think? I hope he would give that full-face grin and pat on the back and say, “URSI is going to be just fine.” then go back to that giant stack of papers to grade.