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Pioneer Viewpoints: Education is alive and well in Bemidji

With graduations upon us, our thoughts turn to local colleges and high schools.

— The Bemidji Area Chamber of Commerce said Thursday that former Bemidji State University President Jim Bensen will receive the chamber’s Charlie Naylor Lifetime Achievement Award at the group’s annual awards gala May 23.

Originally from Erskine, Minn., Bensen is the only BSU alumnus to become president of the university; he served from 1994 to 2001. In announcing Bensen’s intention to retire in 2000, BSU credited Bensen’s accomplishments in a release, including:

— BSU’s re-accreditation by the Commission on Institutions of Higher Education;

— Integration of BSU into Minnesota State Colleges and Universities,

— Renovation of the A.C. Clark Library.

— Advancement of technology throughout campus.

— Expansion of support from alumni, donors and foundations.

The Education Arts Building on campus was renamed Bensen Hall last year.

But Bensen’s reach expands beyond just BSU and education. A longtime civic leader, Bensen has helped many organizations and served on numerous boards. He is the driving force behind Bemidji Leads!, which works to enhance the community as a economic center while also maintain the city’s cultural and small-town balance.

— Educators will tell you that any time students can expand their horizons beyond the classroom, results most likely will be positive.

A group of BSU music students is taking the beyond literally. Known as Voltage, the group, which includes Molly Bass, Judah Chezik, Jesica Lindquist, Josh May and Ben Schreiber, will be traveling to China to act as musical ambassadors at Weifang University. Del Lyren, professor of music at BSU, will accompany the group and teach classes other than those given by the students.

As Patt Rall reported last week in the Pioneer, Lyren and his colleagues at Bemidji State have already gained a reputation in the world of electronic music and they’ll be passing on their knowledge to Chinese faculty and students. That’s a great thing, but it also will be a wonderful learning experience for the BSU group.

BSU has been doing more international collaborations such as this one of late, and that work should continue as it enhances learning for many here at home and abroad.

— Once again, Bemidji High School has been ranked as a top school by a national publication. Last week, Newsweek released its report on the top 2,000 high schools in the country, based on six key criteria. BHS was ranked No. 1,673 and was 36th of the 44 Minnesota schools included on the list.

That comes on the heels of the April report where local charter school TrekNorth and Bemidji High School were named as top schools by U.S. News and World Report. Local charter high school TrekNorth was ranked fourth in the state, BHS was listed No. 30. Trek North also was ranked No. 396 in the country.

Education is indeed alive and well in the Bemidji area.