Walking into his office for the first time, University of Minnesota-Rochester’s first chancellor, Stephen Lehmkuhle, said he looked through the 14-foot-high window and truly entered the Rochester community.
“I may have the best view of Rochester,” he said. “It simply occurred to me at that moment that UMR was truly immersed into the city of Rochester and the city of Rochester was also part of our campus.”
For Lehmkuhle, who was appointed chancellor Aug. 1, finding a niche in the community will be a primary goal.
The Rochester campus, which was officially established in 2006, will aim to become a strong academic institution in a city that features the world-renowned Mayo Clinic and IBM.
Currently, the Rochester campus has about 400 upper-division and graduate students, who started college at either the Duluth or Twin Cities campus.
Lehmkuhle said Rochester will begin admitting its own students soon, with a “pilot” class scheduled for 2008 and full enrollment scheduled to begin by 2009.
Close proximity to the Mayo Clinic will put the focus of the Rochester campus on health sciences and technology. Lehmkuhle said he was hopeful the school and the clinic will develop a solid relationship in years to come.
Lehmkuhle said the campus will also attempt to reach out to the entire Rochester community, in addition to the relationship with Mayo.
“The future of any university will depend on the support of its community,” he said.
The support coming from others at the University has been ample.
“I think he’s been doing very well,” Linda Herrick, nursing program coordinator at Rochester, said. “He’s been visible here at the school.”
Herrick said she was impressed by Lehmkuhle’s desire to interact with local citizen groups and students.
Gail Sauter, director of budget and operations at Rochester, also said she was impressed with the chancellor’s involvement with various groups and people.
She said Lehmkuhle’s recent appointment of Dick Westerlund as interim vice chancellor for academic affairs was a good step in getting the campus solidified.
“I think things have been going really smoothly,” Sauter said.
While the first month and a half has gone well for the Lehmkuhle, the chancellor is certain to face challenges ahead.
Joe Marchesani, graduate program director at Rochester, was on the chancellor selection committee over the summer.
Marchesani said he has been very impressed with Lehmkuhle, but said the chancellor will be challenged with making the community understand the new institution’s purpose.
“We are not creating a UMD,” Marchesani said. “We’re not going to have a football team. We’re not going to have a band.”
Instead, the Rochester campus will be focused on research in the fields of business, technology and health care, he said.
“We have to early on define our role,” Marchesani said. “We’re not a traditional university.”
Lehmkuhle, who previously served as interim chancellor for the University of Missouri-Kansas City, said he was excited for the challenge.
“I had a sense of the potential, but that’s becoming more and more obvious,” he said.
Lehmkuhle will also have to deal with the pressure of being “first” during his tenure.
“Clearly, being the first chancellor of a new campus, I will have an impact,” he said. “I do want it to be a very positive and long-lasting impact.”