It All Started in 1987

Since day one, the volunteer GRAUC Board members, along with GRAUC staff, have worked tirelessly through advocacy and lobbying efforts to advance higher education opportunities and growth in the Rochester community.

GRAUC has successfully advocated for over $130 million in higher education investments to advance the UCR campus and the UMR campus.


At a Glance



  • Commissioned major studies

  • Supported marketing programs

  • Developed UCR vision



  • Served as a catalyst for collaboration between institutions

  • Secured $44 million of state and local funding for capital improvements at UCR

  • Supported local sales tax referendum



  • Advocated for University of Minnesota Rochester campus

  • Supported the Rochester Higher Education Development Committee’s vision for UMR

  • Promoted and supported acquisition of millions of dollars for capital projects and academic enhancements at UMR and UCR

Historic Highlights

GRAUC’s Transformation Takes Flight

2017/18 — John Wade

2017 – 2018 was another busy year for GRAUC.  Not only did we continue the transformation work started in 2016, we completely redesigned our website under the guidance of Brandhoot/Nate Nordstrom and Team and we continued with our Business Briefs in order to remain aware of our ever-changing workforce needs.  We were able to finalize our newly formed Mission Statement and received Board approval at the end of 2017.  The new Mission Statement reads:

• GRAUC will meet the workforce needs of our region
• To achieve this GRAUC:
  - ADVOCATES for quality higher education programs and outcomes
  - PROMOTES higher educational opportunities to best serve business, education, students and the community
  - CONNECTS higher education to business and industry

We finalized the new GRAUC organization structure which brought forward a new “membership council” to the table. This council is called the GRAUC Partnership Council.  This new organization structure and Partnership Council also provided us with a new sustainable funding plan through the membership fee tied to the Partnership Council.

As we closed the 2017-2018 year, we celebrated our accomplishments and looked forward to new challenges.   The role that GRAUC plays in meeting the workforce needs of our region is more important today than ever before.  Alignment of education resources, ensuring those limited resources are directed in the areas of needs and making sure that education and industry our consistently connecting is vital for our region’s economic success.  The shortage of labor is not going away anytime soon so our work remains vital and we look forward to doing our part to invest in our economic success.

GRAUC Transformation

2016/17 — Jess Anderson

This year proved to be a year of transition and transformation for GRAUC. A strategic planning retreat lead to creation of a new mission with a focus on meeting the workforce needs of our region. The organization will continue to advocate for quality higher education programs and services; promote higher education opportunities that best serve business, education, students and the community; and connect higher education with business and industry. This year, the new Career and Technical Education Center at Heintz (CTECH) opened its doors and enrolled more than 1600 students, greatly exceeding expectations and projections. And, Winona State University hosted the GRAUC Board in May on its floating classroom and expanded its Rochester footprint and program offerings when it opened a facility in downtown Rochester. GRAUC joined more than 30 other community organizations that have formed a Cradle to Career coalition to positively impact literacy and life skills at all levels. At a very well attended 30th Anniversary and Awards Celebration Breakfast GRAUC awarded its first two Workforce Innovator grants. GRAUC used the breakfast as an opportunity to congratulate UMR’s Chancellor Lehmkuhle on his upcoming retirement and thank him for his service to higher education and Rochester, as well as welcome Interim Chancellor Lori Carrell.

Career Technical Education Center at Heintz (CTECH)

2015/16 — Mark Utz

The highlight of the year was the culmination of a 20-year effort to fully vest a GRAUC agency endowment account at the Rochester Area Foundation. Thanks to a record number of private donations and a generous “Over the Top” gift from Think Bank, the GRAUC Workforce Innovators Fund will be able to fund, through a grant application process, projects that enhance and support the growth and improvement of higher education opportunities in the greater Rochester area and also promote partnerships between higher education and other agencies or business and industry. GRAUC organized and hosted its first annual Awards Celebration Breakfast to highlight the Workforce Innovator grant, showcase GRAUC’s higher education advocacy efforts and bring together representatives from higher education, K-12 government, non-profit organizations and business and industry. The organization and several board members played key roles this year in the formation of the Destination Medical Center, Journey to Growth and Southeast Minnesota Together initiatives. This year GRAUC held its first-ever board meeting outside of Rochester, when a large contingent of members traveled to Austin for a tour of the Spam Museum and to attend the grand opening of the Hormel Institute’s latest addition. And, GRAUC welcomed Jeanine Gangeness, WSU-R’s new leader, and RCTC Interim President Mary Davenport to Rochester.

Collaborative Planning

2014/15 — Hal Henderson

In a follow-up to last year’s strategic planning retreat, GRAUC adjusted to meet the current higher education and workforce needs in the region by advocating for the better integration of higher education, K-12 and business and industry. This was most evident in the collaborative planning process used for the design of the Career and Technical Education Center at Heintz (CTECH) building and curriculum. For the first time in recent memory, business representatives sat down together with educators to analyze the area’s workforce needs, identify career pathways, develop curriculum and plan for the new $6.5 million facility being constructed on the RCTC campus with funds appropriated from local sales tax revenues. Since GRAUC was instrumental in helping garner support for higher education inclusion in the local sales tax referendum, it was pleased to join RCTC at the grand opening of a $6 million Phase 3 expansion of increased seating; new locker, restroom, concessions and ticketing facilities; and other amenities at the Rochester Regional Stadium.

Leadership Change

2013/14 — Ken Kurth

This was a year of leadership change for GRAUC and RCTC, with Executive Director Jim Clausen stepping down and retiring RCTC President Don Supalla assuming the organization’s reins. It proved to be the beginning of a number of higher education institutional leadership changes that continued for the next several years. Throughout its more than 25-years of advocacy and promotion of innovative practices that leverage the resources of public higher education, GRAUC has played an ongoing role in the orientation for new leaders. As the vision for Rochester to become a world-class destination medical center unfolded, it became evident that developing a skilled workforce was becoming increasingly important. A GRAUC strategic planning retreat culminated in the notion that, although the organization’s long-standing support for growing Rochester’s higher education infrastructure would continue, more importance must be placed on connecting higher education to better meet the anticipated regional workforce skills gap and that could best be accomplished by putting a focus on eliminating the boundaries between K-12, higher education and business and industry.

Sales Tax Funded Projects

2012/13 — Mike Good

GRAUC’s most significant initiative this year is its involvement in the reauthorization of Rochester’s half-cent sales tax extension with a proposal that, if passed by voters and approved by the legislature, would earmark $28.5 million for infrastructure projects at UCR and UMR. The organization’s efforts paid off when, in November, Rochester voters overwhelmingly approved the extension and the legislature, with minor reductions (none to the higher education funding) followed suit. In the spring of 2013, GRAUC joined in congratulating the first University of Minnesota Rochester graduates. GRAUC continues to serve as a catalyst for collaboration among Rochester’s three public higher education institutions and advocate for capital bonding projects to maintain and enhance facilities at both University Center Rochester and the University of Minnesota Rochester. The organization plays a key role in supporting the alignment of the provider’s visions and strategies, assists in identifying program voids and duplications and serves as a liaison between Rochester’s public higher education providers, K-12 educators, business and industry and community and regional organizations.

25th Anniversary Celebration

2011/12 — Tim Weir

This was a milestone year as GRAUC celebrated its 25th Anniversary with a gala reception at the Rochester Golf and Country Club. Attendees included current and former GRAUC Board members, present and past higher education provider leaders, elected officials, K-12 leaders, business and industry representatives and community members. Guests were treated to an update on organizational highlights, current initiatives and future plans. GRAUC planning continued as to how best the organization might position higher education projects that might be considered for the anticipated next local sales tax reauthorization proposal. After extensive discussion, it was ultimately determined that GRAUC would advocate for funding of a secondary career and technical education center, combined with a STEM teacher-educator resource center, to be constructed adjacent to the existing Heintz Center. In addition, GRAUC supported the funding of enhancements to the Rochester Regional Stadium and the allocation of resources for the future construction of a downtown University of Minnesota Rochester permanent campus. GRAUC Board members continue to dialogue with Rochester’s public higher education leaders to identify institutional needs and how best the organization might advocate for those needs at the local, regional and state levels.

Sales Tax Reauthorization

2010/11 — Dan Christianson

GRAUC's new structure in 2010/2011 provided the flexibility and responsiveness we were hoping to accomplish. Our focus was primarily to advocate for the inclusion of public higher education projects in the sales tax reauthorization that would directly benefit community members who live, work, and learn in the Greater Rochester area. We were successful in having included in the Sales Tax Advisory Committee's recommendation to the Rochester City Council that future sales tax funds be used for a permanent campus for UMR, that the CTECH and STEM Village collaborative projects of RCTC and WSU be funded, and that the regional stadium be completed on the UCR campus. These projects also made it through the legistlature unscathed. We will now focus our energies on advocating for the passage of the sales tax referendum by the voters of Rochester in the fall of 2012.

Strategic Direction

2009/10 — Gary Smith

GRAUC's work during the 2009/2010 fiscal year was centered around rethinking the organization's strategic direction. After ten months of study, the board emerged with a refined mission defining its role to serve as a lead community advocacy agency evaluating higher education projects for sales tax authorization use as well as supporting and ensuring complementary institutional missions. The size of the Board was reduced and committee structure eliminated to allow the Board to function as a committee of the whole. A Coordinating Committee compromised of elected officers was created to replace the Executive Committee with duties that include: setting the agenda for Board and Coalition activity, managing finances, and overseeing personnel.

Supporting Partners

2008/09 — Aaron Benike

GRAUC continued its educational advocacy mission by supporting the growth of local public education partners, RCTC, UMR, and WSU-R. GRAUC provided continued support for the CTECH (Career Technical Education Center) creation with UCR partners as the project moves forward into the next stage with the appointed legislative planning money. GRAUC also supported the space and program planning needs of the newly-established UMR urban campus in downtown Rochester, which expects its first freshman class in the fall of 2009. GRAUC provided input to WSU-R in identifying opportunities for program and enrollment growth and community-based educational delivery for the Rochester community.

New Beginnings

2007/08 — Kathleen Meyerle, JD

2007-2008 featured may new beginnings for GRAUC. Kari Takahashi began her tenure as GRAUC Exectuive Director. Two significant firsts occurred at the University of Minnesota Rochester with their move to a new campus in downtown Rochester at University Square and the installation of the first chancellor, Dr. Stephen Lehmkuhle. Growth continued at UCR with the Legislative appropriation of planning money for the CTECH (Career Technical Education Center at Heintz) project.

Distinct Branches

2006/07 — Doug Boese, JD

GRAUC successfully advocates at the legislature to fund a distinct branch of the University of Minnesota in Rochester. GRAUC continues to work with RCTC and Winona State to support their space needs. Board members provide input to the University about their vision for UMR. GRAUC supports the efforts of the Rochester Higher Education Development Committee to shape the future of the U of M Rochester.

Successful Passage

2005/06 — Claudia Knowlton-Chike

GRAUC provided leadership to the successful passage of the sales tax referendum that dedicated an additional $8 million for higher education capital projects. Governor Pawlenty announced his appointments of the Rochester Higher Education Development Committee (RHEDC). In Janary, the RHEDC provided their report on 'Advancing Minnesota' and establishing a world-class higher education institution that leverages the University of Minnesota. GRAUC Chair appointed a special Higher Ed Task Force (HEFT) which would spearhead the implementation of the RHEDC recommendations with the 2006 Legislature. The "World of Thanks" event was planned and held in March to recognize 20 years of GRAUC leadership.

Growth Opportunities

2004/05 — Jim Clausen

GRAUC examines UMR growth opportunities, appoints a special task force and examines recommendations; broadens coalition of support; successfully advocates for $3.2 M to support the Governor's Rochester Higher Education Development initiative and $12.97 M for the UCR Health Sciences renovation; examines business plan for a proposed domed stadium.

Increased Accountability

2003/04 — Joseph Gibiliso, DDS

GRAUC commits to increase accountability; align vision with UCR in mutually agreeable areas; expand stakeholder discussion to explore future growth opportunities; accelerate expansion of the U of M Rochester in areas that will be mutually beneficial to community and state economic vitality; and advocate on behalf of UCR campus co-development.

Strategic Planning

2002/03 — Kathy Meyerle

GRAUC strategic planning refines vision, mission, goals in light of GRAUC Statement of Direction; advocates on behalf of UCR Health Sciences renovation and youth sports fields enhancements; outlines development efforts to broaden financial support for GRAUC and assists UMR Advisory in supporting UMR growth and excellence; co-hosts LiNK Conference on e-learning best practices; develops "Lamp of Knowledge" award for individuals, employers and regional organizations that support higher education partnerships.

Refined Vision

2001/02 — Marilyn Stewart

GRAUC completes Phase I Study assessing degree of support for advancing higher education; conducts strategic retreat; drafts Statement of Direction affirming critical role U of M Rochester will contribute to expanding research, outreach programs, business partnerships and economic development initiatives, and commits to take a leadership role in raising funds to support UMR growth and excellence; hosts day in Rochester with MinnState Chancellor and Trustees; attends U of M Regents events in Rochester.

The Early Years


The Greater Rochester Area University Center (GRAUC), now Greater Rochester Advocates for Universities and Colleges, was formed as an outgrowth of FutureScan 2000, a community-based strategic planning process initiated in 1985 by the Rochester Area Chamber of Commerce. The goal of FutureScan was to insure the future vigor of the area’s economy and quality of life. The FutureScan 2000 Executive Committee was chaired by Al Tuntland, president of Schmidt Printing, and five task force chairs: Norb Conzemius (Downtown Redevelopment), Lance Davenport (Economic Diversification and Jobs), Carol Kamper (Local Government), Mike Myers (Affordable Housing), Larry Osterwise (Higher Education) The Higher Education Task Force, comprised of 22 area citizens, made its formal report and the following recommendations on October 13, 1986: Form a Greater Rochester Area University Center with a Board of Directors (community members) and a Board of Providers (educational representatives) to better coordinate, monitor and promote higher education in Rochester and represent Rochester on higher education matters; Complete a comprehensive needs, benefits and long-range higher education goal analysis; Implement baccalaureate, graduate, vocational and noncredit programs and courses to achieve appropriate articulation and optimize transferability of courses; Integrate new technologies into the delivery and curricula of current and future programs. The GRAUC Board of Directors served as an advisory group that brought together key players of the community’s industrial, education and government sectors to represent Rochester on all higher education matters and to work closely together with the GRAUC Board of Providers, which included eight Rochester public and private institutions. (This partnership was forged eight years prior to the legislatively mandated merger of the community, technical and state university college systems.) During these early years, the GRAUC Board of Directors and Board of Providers worked collaboratively to deliver comprehensive, cost-effective quality higher education and produce a unified bulletin of higher education offerings in the Rochester area. As GRAUC’s advocacy and influence grew, so too did the number of higher education providers, student enrollments, new program offerings and campus facility additions and enhancements. Since 1987, the GRAUC Board of Directors has fostered a community vision for expanded higher education offerings in Rochester. During these early years, GRAUC’s advocacy resulted in the creation of the University Center Rochester (UCR), a joint partnership of Rochester Community and Technical College, Winona State University and the University of Minnesota Rochester, and set the stage for further higher education developments in the 21st Century.