President Jayasuriya leads SMSU’s first Town Hall Meeting

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President Jayasuriya leads SMSU’s first Town Hall Meeting

The crowd at the Town Hall Meeting on Thursday.

The crowd at the Town Hall Meeting on Thursday.

Hanna Vos

The crowd at the Town Hall Meeting on Thursday.

Hanna Vos

Hanna Vos

The crowd at the Town Hall Meeting on Thursday.

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Southwest Minnesota State University (SMSU) is a diverse campus full of unique people. There aren’t many chances, if any at all, for these diverse groups to get together to discuss problems and suggest solutions. That is, until now.

SMSU’s first ever Town Hall Meeting took place in the Lower Conference Center. The seats in the conference center were filled with students, faculty, and staff members alike. SMSU President Kumara Jayasuriya led the meeting in a conversational fashion, and started by telling the crowd why he thought SMSU should have a Town Hall Meeting. He informed the audience of a survey on campus which  indicated that participating students felt there was a lack of communication. Jayasuriya wanted to address that. “You have to tell me how things are going,” he said. “If there’s anything that you think I need to change, you need to tell me . . . so I can fix it.”

Jayasuriya handed control of the meeting to the audience. A microphone was passed around the room so that people could voice their concerns, ask questions, and suggest changes. Issues like SMSU’s enrollment levels and how to ensure that students are getting a good quality of education were discussed. Teresa Henning, a professor of English, said she was, “impressed by the president’s honesty and willingness to consider ideas from everyone in the room.”

When the first Town Hall Meeting was announced, it wasn’t guaranteed that there would be a second. Whether or not a second meeting would be held was to be determined by the number of people present at the first meeting. “I’m surprised by the turnout,” Jayasuriya said after the conclusion of the first meeting. “I didn’t expect all the seats to be full, and people were standing. . . I think they [SMSU community members] are hungry for this type of discussion.” With that, the fate of future Town Hall Meetings seemed secure. 

People are looking forward to these future meetings. Heather Moreland, a professor of mathematics, said, “I thought that President Jayasuriya’s Town Hall meeting was a wonderful new tradition to start at SMSU. It was wonderful to see him genuinely be interested in feedback from faculty, staff, and students.”

Moreland was also impressed by the president’s sincerity. “His willingness to sincerely listen to the concerns and ideas from these groups makes me feel more optimistic for the future of SMSU than I have ever been in my time here. I find his energy, ideas, and sincerity invigorating and I am looking forward to moving our university forward and upward under his leadership.”

Having a Town Hall Meeting proved to be an effective way to open the dialogue between faculty, staff, and students at SMSU. These meetings are a resource for anyone who is feeling like their voice isn’t being heard. 

If there is an issue, question, or suggestion that one would like to voice to the SMSU community, come to the next Town Hall Meeting. 

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