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Making the grade

New Minnesota State College - Southeast Technical president Dorothy Duran has continued to move farther north throughout her career starting in New Mexico, then moving to Iowa and now Southeastern Minnesota. (Republican Eagle photo by John R. Russett)

When Dorothy Duran stepped into her office on her first day as a temporary clerk in the financial aid office at Albuquerque Technical Vocational Institute she didn’t expect to work with students.

Then a student walked in.

Duran’s time at Albuquerque TVI helped shape the vision which brought her to where she is today — the first female president of Minnesota State College – Southeast Technical.

“I learned when students came in and asked for help we needed to be able to serve them,” she said. “But I also developed the intense passion for the work that we do at the two-year college.”

Duran took over for long-tenured president Jim Johnson on July 1 after she spent the last eight years as the vice president for academic affairs at Iowa Western Community College. Before moving to Iowa she served at Northern New Mexico College from 1998 to 2006 and Albuquerque TVI from 1988 to 1996.

“I have now, for 24 years, lived and breathed the community college mission,” Duran said. “It defines me.”

The bigger picture

Duran said she plans to start small. The first six months she plans to listen, learn and find out the culture of the school before making any significant changes, she said.

One of Duran’s goals is to move the college to the next level in terms of an associate of arts degree. She said she plans to meet with presidents of four-year schools and other partners to talk about developing two plus two programs that are more transparent than what the college currently has.

One of the major issues facing state-funded institutions continues to be the decrease in state aid and the growing reliance on tuition.

“We do not want to become a private school and that’s what we’re doing by raising our tuition,” Duran said.

Duran said she wants to bring lawmakers to campus to see the students and learn the students’ stories so they can see the true impact of cutting funding. Decreased funding doesn’t so much hurt the schools, she added, but it hurts the people the schools serve.

Aside from making a push to stop the recent trend of increasing tuition, Duran said she will work to raise support for more scholarships and strive to be creative in finding ways to lessen the financial burden on students.

Bringing in the community

One of the keys to a successful college is the inclusion of the community, Duran said, adding that constant learning energizes a community.

“Dr. Duran has a track record of fostering a culture of trust and collaboration and will be a generous partner with business, industry, the public schools and the communities the college serves,” said Minnesota State Colleges and Universities chancellor Steven Rosenstone.

Duran hopes to develop concurring enrollment with local schools, custom training in direct response to the community needs, which will help foster a more vibrant community.

A different place

Before applying for the job at Southeast Technical, Duran read about the ways the faculty and staff worked together to help serve the students. It was working in unison that attracted her to the position, she said.

During Duran’s visits to Winona and Red Wing she said she could tell Johnson had cultivated a good environment at the school.

“Seeing how everyone works together, it just felt right to me,” she said. “I’m happy to be here.”


Duran earned a bachelor’s degree in English and sociology and a master’s degree in educational foundations form the University of New Mexico. In 1998 she graduated with her doctorate from the Community College Leadership Program at University of Texas-Austin.

John R. Russett

John Russett is a regional reporter for RiverTown Multimedia, covering a variety of issues facing RiverTown communities. Previously, he worked at the Red Wing Republican Eagle, where he reported on education as well as crime and courts. 

You can follow him on Twitter at @JohnRyanRussett


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