A black student wearing a University of Minnesota sweatshirt is walking in University Square in Rochester and is smiling and waving to someone

Meeting the needs of students and the healthcare industry

The groundbreaking NXT GEN MED—a collaboration with Mayo Clinic—is a year-round academic program designed for students who want to enter high-demand administrative careers in the healthcare system. Kollengode, who hopes to tack on a master’s degree in health care administration, is eyeing a career in operations management or project management.

Looking up at the top of the skyscrapers in downtown Rochester
A far away side view of the Mayo Clinic

U of M Rochester, which recently celebrated the 10-year anniversary of its first graduating class in 2013, has been at the forefront of exploring innovative options to the standard four-year college calendar and in closing achievement gaps for students. It’s one of about a dozen colleges across the nation pursuing pilot programs that grant bachelor’s degrees in three years or less.

And with its living learning communities and easy access to faculty advisors (through the Just Ask program), students are thriving personally as well as academically. Students of color, first-generation students, and those whose families receive Pell grants are graduating at nearly the same rate as the general student population.

Kollengode walking down a campus street with three friends

“Students are at the center of everything we do, including our research,” says Chancellor Lori Carrell. “We are the only campus in the country—the world, as far as we know—where faculty from all disciplines focus their primary research on student learning and development. UMR uses education research to inform how we support student success in and out of the classroom.”

"With NXT GEN MED, we've incorporated the best educational practices and student success measures with employer collaborations to provide students with the tools and opportunities to be successful both in college and beyond," adds Andy Petzold, faculty director of NXT GEN MED.

For the NXT GEN MED partnership, the accelerated timeline and significant scholarship dollars help students lessen their overall college costs. And internships and mentorships aren’t just a potential “extra” for students. They’re a given.

There’s no place like the hometown campus

For Kollengode, everything about the Rochester campus and NXT GEN MED has been a perfect fit. He started in fall 2022 with a cohort of 10 classmates and will have his degree in December 2024.

That first fall he was connected with a Mayo Clinic mentor, and this summer he began an internship with Mayo Clinic’s Department of Business Development. At first, he was primarily sitting in on meetings and learning the Mayo vernacular. Lately, he’s been part of a few business transactions, and was able to sit in on seminars and events that Mayo Clinic has hosted.

“I have heard how competitive the market is for internships, and as a freshman it's very rare to get one,” he says. “I thought, I will not find this anywhere else, let alone at the number one hospital in the world.”

Kollengode also beams about U of M Rochester’s sense of community and engagement. UMR, he says, “focuses on and really highlights inclusivity, and it makes sure that all students are heard and seen. It creates an environment for the students—and me, specifically—that I feel is super welcoming, and why I really enjoyed choosing this place.”

Kollengode smiling at an associate wearing gloves and protective glasses in a lab
Akhil Kollengode's dog lovingly licks his face in a dorm room

Then there’s his cohort—a small and tight-knit group that attends classes together and lives in the same living and learning community.

“I’m sitting in a classroom with 10 kids (at a circular table) who I see in every single class,” he says. “We are able to build connections, and we're able to have meaningful and deep conversations in our class that I would not expect that I could achieve at other colleges. It makes you want to come back to class when you're talking meaningfully and not just sitting and taking notes.”

So, even though Kollengode didn’t travel to a coast for college, he knows he’s right where he’s meant to be. The “something new” he was seeking is embodied in NXT GEN MED.

“The inclusivity and the environment the Rochester campus has created is definitely why I chose it and why I'm happy I chose it,” he says. “Because it has given me a space to show myself and really discover who I am as an individual.”

Other career pathways at U of M Rochester

Explore these unique Career Pathways that lead to life-changing careers.

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The Business and Leadership of Health Care

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Resilience, Well-being and Mental Health

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Patient Care

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Health Care Research and Discovery

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Public Policy and Global Health

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Emerging Health Technologies