President's report to the Board of Regents: A new Greater Minnesota scholarship initiative, UMD, and the value of a U diploma

Friday, March 24, 2017

Thank you, Chair Johnson, and it’s a pleasure to welcome our newest Board members. Regent Powell, welcome. Regent Sviggum, welcome back. And to Regents Rosha and McMillan, congratulations on your re-election.

Of course, we are meeting in Regent McMillan’s back yard, and there’s much to be proud of at UMD these days. 

A few examples stand out.

Importantly, in undergraduate and graduate education, enrollment is up over last year. On the academic front, we celebrated just last month the grand opening of the Securian Learning Commons and Math Labs, which doubled UMD’s capacity to teach and prepare 1,200 students each year in developmental math courses. It’s part of our commitment to prepare the STEM work force across the state, and it’s a perfect example of philanthropy being translated into the real needs of our students. Securian, a strong partner of the University, provided its $750,000 gift in honor of former CEO, Bob Senkler, a very proud UMD alum.

Also, earlier this month, UMD’s Bachelor of Social Work program was fully accredited. It’s a hybrid program with intensive internship experience, and will prepare strong leaders for residential treatment centers, mental health programs, child welfare and school social work. The program has a special emphasis of working with the state’s American Indian community.

And, of course, in athletics, the Bulldogs are responsive to this very knowledgeable ice hockey fan base here in Northeast Minnesota. The men’s team will play tonight in Fargo as the NCAA tournament begins, seeded first in the region, and No. 2 in the nation after winning the National Collegiate Hockey Conference tournament. And the Bulldog women had a terrific season, led by Coach Maura Crowell who, in only her second season on the job, was named the NCAA Division I National Coach of the Year. National Coach of the Year, a great achievement.Her team qualified for the NCAA tournament for the first time since 2011. Congratulations to Coach Crowell and to Athletics Director Josh Berlo for his leadership.

And thanks to Chancellor Black’s steady and strategic leadership,  UMD is on the upward trajectory that we all seek. But, so is our entire system. We have a new and energetic chancellor in Morris with Michelle Behr. And we are closing in on naming a new chancellor for our Crookston campus. Later today we’ll hear from UMR Chancellor Lehmkuhle and Associate Provost Ropers-Huillman about their important work on a system-wide strategic plan. I look forward to that report.

It aligns with our ongoing work — in just about every way — to improve and better communicate our commitment to Greater Minnesota. We already have great impact in all 87 counties, including those that surround this campus. As I told leaders of the business and civic community last night, besides developing the talent, leadership and work force for the seven-county Arrowhead region, UMD’s economic impact adds up to more than $500 million a year. And, all told, in those seven surrounding counties the University of Minnesota — all of our campuses — has more than 34,000 alumni, with more than 14,000 of them UMD grads, working as doctors, nurses, teachers, engineers, civic officials and community leaders.

We’ve been telling that story of our statewide impact to members of the Legislature over the past months, too, highlighting all we do through Extension, our research and outreach centers, our 1,700 health care affiliations across the state, the leadership of our nearly 300,000 alumni statewide, and the work of our system campuses. But, as always, we can do better when it comes to attracting students from Greater Minnesota.                             

With that in mind, I’m very excited to announce today a new initiative that will launch this fall in our College of Food, Agricultural and Natural Resource Sciences — CFANS — on our Twin Cities campus.
It’s called the Land-Grant Legacy Scholarship and we envision it expanding to our system campuses and other undergraduate colleges on our Twin Cities campus.

The Land-Grant Legacy Scholarship is designed to attract and retain more students from Greater Minnesota, a goal of mine, of this Board, and of other stakeholders across the state. Long term, our goal is that the Land-Grant Legacy Scholarship  will be fully supported by philanthropy. This scholarship aligns with one of our Progress Card goals to serve Minnesota students. And it’s a continuation of our commitment to keep Minnesota’s best and brightest students in the state.

Unfortunately, Minnesota is a net exporter of college-bound talent. As Minnesota’s only public, land-grant, research institution, we have a special obligation to educate Minnesota students.
We know that one of the key drivers of Greater Minnesota students’ decisions to study out of state is related to finances.
This new scholarship will level the playing field financially and make the University of Minnesota — the premier research and teaching institution in the region — even more attractive to Minnesota students and families.For now, over the next four years, as new classes enter, the Land-Grant Legacy Scholarship will provide $5,000 each to 25 incoming freshmen.
Eventually, when fully implemented, that’s a total of 100 Greater Minnesota students on Land-Grant Legacy Scholarships after the initial four years of the initiative.  
The first cohort of students will be enrolled in CFANS for the fall 2017 semester, and I’m thankful to CFANS Dean Brian Buhr for his work on this.

The Land-Grant Legacy Scholarship builds on other recent initiatives that underscore the University’s commitment to its land-grant mission and to keep our promise of affordable excellence.

With this Land-Grant Legacy Scholarship we will also be promoting our world-class College of Food, Agricultural and Natural Resource Sciences. CFANS is uniquely positioned to help our students and graduates address, among others, the environmental, food, bio-products, water, and agricultural education grand challenges that we face.The bottom line is this: We are deeply committed to making our University even more accessible to students from all 87 of Minnesota’s counties.  The Land-Grant Legacy Scholarship is another solid step in that important direction.
Let me turn to a legislative update. Both chambers announced their targets for higher education this week, and they fell very far short of our total request of $147 million. The Senate’s proposed funding of the University stands now at less than $30 million. That includes $2 million for the Natural Resources Research Institute here at UMD, or half of what we requested. And $4 million for Cancer Clinical Trials of our MnDRIVE request. The rest is for our Core Mission operations, far short of what we need. There’s nothing for our Student Success initiative. Nothing for the Bell Museum. And nothing for family medicine residencies.

The House Omnibus Budget Bill includes even less for the University — $22 million — with nothing for our Core Mission, for our Student Success goals, or for the Bell Museum.
It does include $2 million for MnDRIVE, $14 million for Health Training and $4 million for NRRI.  Of course, we have a long way to go before the end of session in May, but, clearly, we also have a lot of work to do with our partners in the Legislature.

Mr. Chair, members of the Board, we are in a new reality for state investment in higher education and this new normal will have long-term consequences. Undoubtedly, this new reality will put increased pressure on this Board and my administration to make some very tough choices in the months ahead. As the session unfolds towards its conclusion, I urge you to join me and vigorously support the University’s request at the Capitol.
In closing, I think we all know how important a University of Minnesota diploma is to those of us who have earned one, or who have had a child who’s earn one. But I don’t think you can get the full measure of what it means to students and their families until you experience what Regent Hsu and I did last Monday. 

Perhaps you saw this in the media, but we conducted a small, special commencement ceremony at Eastcliff for Collin Brown, a senior in our Twin Cities’ College of Science and Engineering.A request came to my office in February from a friend of Collin’s family, informing us that Collin’s dad, Ken, was weeks away from dying from ALS. One of Ken’s final wishes was to see his son graduate from the U. 

We decided to make that happen. I was honored to be a part of it, and came away with an even deeper understanding of what earning a University of Minnesota degree means to Minnesota’s families. We should never forget that.

With that, Mr. Chair, I conclude my report.