A New College on the Prairie, Southwest State University's First Twenty-Five Years, 1967-1992

By Joseph Amato

Cloudy Sky WatersProfessor Amato's fast-moving history is more than a survey of the first twenty-five years of Southwest State University. It is also a study of the events and cultural, social, and demographic trends, which led to the creation and shaped the development of this small rural institution on the prairie of southwestern Minnesota. Amato examines such topics as the role of boosterism in establishing the college, the policies of government and the vagaries of politics in forming its history, the fashions, sensibilities, and ideals that influenced its students and faulty, the role of unionization in defining the entire institution, and the unity and the disunity associated with its changing administrations. The theme of being asked to do more, with less, runs throughout the work.

In A New College on the Prairie, Amato, a European cultural historian by training and a local historian by avocation, offers a unique form of committed public history. In this book, he traces a fascinating and tumultuous history of pride and triumph, disorder and distress, chaos and rebirth. Amato first shows how this small college came to be, and then he examines how in the late 1960s and early 1970s the college grew into an institution with over 3,000 students. Next, he probes the forces at work that led to a drop of more than fifty percent in its enrollment and candidly analyzes an institution in deep crises in the mid-1970s. Finally, he shows the institution's amazing rebound in the late 1970s and 1980s when enrollments again surpasses 3,000, and students, faculty, staff, alumni, and members of the community looked ahead to a promising future for this resilient new college on the prairie.

Crossings Press, 1991

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