Mankato and SPC are home to the first Polytech institute in Minnesota

Universities have adapted “polytechnic” schools in recent decades. Several states have incorporated polytechnics into their universities, and now the state of Minnesota will offer the first and only polytechnic in the state.

Polytechnic refers to an educational approach with an emphasis on applied and experiential learning, meaning the curriculum is project-based rather than a traditional lecture environment.

Minnesota Polytechnic and Applied Learning Institute (MinnPoly) collaborates with other colleges in the state, most notably Saint Paul College. MSU President Edward Inch cut a ceremonial ribbon at the college with SPC President Deidra Peaslee on January 11 to celebrate the start of the partnership.

The campus features a recently renovated engineering lab that allows students to complete a four-year MSU degree on the SPC campus. This will allow a wider range of students from different fields to earn MSU degrees without having to be in Mankato, as well as travel opportunities for MSU employees.

Other MinnPoly partner locations include Twin Cities Engineering in Bloomington and Iron Range Engineering and Bell Engineering in Virginia, MN. Although MinnPoly is not strictly an engineering institute, this major is one of the more prominent in the program due to its project-based nature in the field.

“It builds on our engineering program but goes beyond engineering,” said Dr. Brian Martensen, Executive Director of MinnPoly.

Martensen said MinnPoly’s development, which has been in the works for about five years, is based on Industry 4.0, or the fourth industrial revolution. Industry 4.0 is a conceptualization of near-future technological needs that rely heavily on collaboration and rapidly evolving digital technology.

“A lot of that will be computer fields, manufacturing and other areas. But truly Polytech is any career-oriented program with a technical component. So that could include, and I would say, especially where the humanities intersect with technology. Our approach is that we typically look at programs that do project-based learning,” Martensen said.

Martensen said project-based learning is necessary for modern college students because it offers real industry experience and connections that employers will ultimately notice more.

“Traditionally, higher education has not moved too far away from classroom and silo learning. But there is growing evidence that greater interdisciplinary integration with hands-on learning and applications is creating a new breed of graduate who can adapt to the rapid pace of technological and societal change,” he said. “Employers are looking for graduates with special skills who can immediately contribute to their organizations and quickly advance professionally. MinnPoly programs contribute to this in a way that blurs the lines between academia and industry.”

write to Carly Bahr at [email protected]


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