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CBS News - January 2006

FROM THE DEAN

What do you think about the task force reports?

Eleven strategic positioning task force reports were submitted on December 16.

Task force leaders and the University are eager to learn your response to these recommendations. I also encourage you to engage in the process. The outcome will be better if it reflects all of our best thinking.

You might want to start by reading an article on UMNnews that summarizes the recommendations (Community Input Wanted) and then proceed to the full reports and online comment form, which are posted at Recommendations

Comments will be accepted through January 27. Final recommendations will be released on February 3.

The reports span collegiate design, diversity, graduate reform, international programs, and honors, student support, and writing programs for undergraduates. As I have studied them over the past few weeks, several over-arching thoughts have come to mind.

First of all, the changes that come out of the reports will involve all of us, not just task force members and administrators. We are all accountable for figuring out how to implement the changes and move the University of Minnesota into the ranks of the world’s leading public research universities. In order to be successful, we will all need to change the way we work in some way.

Secondly, we need to go about change in a scholarly way in order to change the way our peers at other universities perceive us. In essence, we are creating a new model. We need to let peer institutions know about this by documenting and publishing our methods and outcomes.

Thirdly, we need to keep in mind that the goal of change is to improve the quality of research and education. We need to keep asking ourselves these questions: Will this change result in a breakthrough discovery? Will it create an exceptional educational experience? What does it mean to get better? And we need to remind ourselves that this is more than an exercise in organization. The results of repositioning are what matters.

The report on graduate reform does an excellent job of addressing these goals. The task force has proposed a new model for public engagement that would send graduate students out to K-12 schools to talk to students about research. This is a great idea that would raise public awareness about the value of research, challenge graduate students to think about real-world implications of their work, and inspire K-12 students to pursue research as a career.

I was happy to see that the report for integrating COAFES and CNR identifies the need for physical space to bring together faculty from ecology, civil engineering, and other areas of environmental sciences. I appreciate the importance of this. Virtual connections just don’t work. Faculty need to work near each other and sit down for coffee in shared spaces in order to get to develop productive collaborations. I hope this will be a priority as the University continues with the reorganization process.

I was also impressed by the report on undergraduate reform. As you know, my mantra as dean has been “put students first and everything else falls into place almost naturally.”

We have tried to live up to that at CBS with Nature of Life, opportunities for students to work with faculty in research labs, mentoring, and other experiences. The report on student support is based on the same approach. I’d like to think that CBS has been a model for this.

I also had some concerns about the reports, however, particularly the scope of the report on the University’s K-12 strategy. Our relationship with K-12 schools is very important. We are, in fact, part of a K-20 system. And as such, we need to do a better job of partnering with K-12 schools and community colleges to prepare high ability students from all backgrounds to enter the University of Minnesota, either as freshmen or as transfer students from community colleges. We need a plan for working with MNSCU to help capable students at community colleges make the transition to the U and then we need to welcome those students here.

I encourage you to take the time to look at the reports and to respond to them. All of these task forces address issues that concern us. The report on graduate reform is particularly relevant for our work at CBS. As you know, all of our graduate programs need more support to enable us to compete effectively with our peers.

Bob Elde

NEWS

All-College Meeting

U’s success as a research institution may hinge on ability to win large, multi-investigator grants from federal funding agencies

Claudia Neuhauser and David Bernlohr, co-chairs of the U’s Science and Engineering task force met with the CBS community in December to gain input from faculty on how to strengthen core disciplines in CBS, IT, and the Medical School while fostering connections and synergies between biology and the physical sciences, mathematics, engineering and related disciplines. The task force has been asked to recommend a structure to achieve these goals, and a plan to position the University for prominence in basic sciences and related disciplines, such as biomedical research, agriculture, and environmental sciences.

Discussion among the task force leaders and 30 or so faculty who attended the meeting, held in the Cargill Building on December 13, focused on the importance of obtaining large, multi-investigator grants. These grants are a growing trend because of the increasingly interdisciplinary nature of scientific research. Consequently, any new structure will need to support the University’s ability to compete effectively for this type of grant. At present, there is no University mechanism for coordinating applications. And as a result, many opportunities are missed.  The structure needs to be flexible enough to respond to RFPs for a broad spectrum of large research grants that involve very different kinds of interdisciplinary collaborations.  The structure also needs to include ways to communicate these opportunities to faculty and respond quickly.

Faculty also commented on the importance of improving funding for graduate programs and students. The Molecular and Cellular Biology Initiative provided funds for new faculty and buildings, but stopped short of funds for graduate students, who help to carry out faculty research and are key to the volume and quality of research.

Neuhauser said the meeting was very well attended and that faculty were very engaged in the issues. “It really helps us to know about the opinions of faculty,” she said. “If we are going to make the University a better research institution, we need their ideas because they are the ones who do the research.”

Joint College meeting to discuss science and technology

Dean Steve Crouch (IT) and Dean Bob Elde (CBS) invite you to attend a joint college meeting to learn about the challenges facing the science and technology workforce in Minnesota and their implications for our colleges.  Information on how demographic changes will affect education and workforce development will be presented by Eric Jolly, president of the Science Museum of Minnesota; Tom Stinson, U of M professor and state economist; and Tom Gillespie, state demographer.  Implications for diversity planning and K-16 collaborations will be discussed afterward.  We hope that a stimulating dialogue with these experts will help us create a fresh approach to these challenges.The meeting will be held on January 25, from 1:00 p.m. – 3:30 p.m. in Walter Library 101, Minneapolis Campus.

Feedback wanted on strategic planning task force reports

More than 100 faculty, staff, students, and community members have spent hundreds of hours developing preliminary recommendations for 11 of the University’s 34 strategic positioning task forces. Now through January 27, it’s your turn to provide input. The feedback will be used in drafting final recommendations for Provost Thomas Sullivan and Senior Vice President Robert Jones.  To review the preliminary recommendations, go to http://www.umn.edu/systemwide/strategic_positioning.

Learn about the University's 2006 legislative request

Join alumni, faculty, staff, and students on Wednesday, January 25 for an insider’s preview and discussion of the University of Minnesota’s 2006 Capital Request. Hear President Robert Bruininks, students, and faculty explain how the building projects in this year’s capital request will benefit the University and the entire state. This program will teach you how to be an effective advocate for the University at the Legislature and in your own community. Enjoy a light dinner and meet others who care about the future of the U. The event runs from 5:30 to 8:00 p.m. in the McNamara Alumni Center. To register for this event, call 612-625-9174. For more information, go to http://www.supporttheu.umn.edu.

UEL recognized for architecture and community impact

University Enterprise Laboratories (UEL) was honored by University UNITED for its architectural excellence and impact on future land use along University Avenue.  University UNITED is a coalition of community organizations and business people who work to revitalize the University Avenue Corridor through community-based planning and development.  The University UNITED Annual Awards are presented to projects that enhance the quality of life along University Avenue.

Monuments honor many from CBS

The Alumni Wall of Honor stretches more than 200 feet along Oak Street in front of the McNamara Alumni Center to celebrate the winners of the Outstanding Achievement Award, the highest honor for University of Minnesota graduates.  Twenty-three CBS alumni are listed on the Alumni Wall of Honor, dedicated on September 23, 2005.  Areas of achievement span medicine, research, biotechnology, environment, community service, and music.                       

The Scholars Walk, a wide pathway beginning at the Wall of Honor and ending at Pleasant Street, is designed to celebrate research and education accomplishments of students and faculty at the University of Minnesota.  A special faculty committee assisted planners of the Scholars Walk in determining the names of those to be included.  Completion of the Scholars Walk is dependent on raising more private gifts.

For more information, go to http://www.alumni.umn.edu/AlumniWallofHonor.html

UPlan Wellness introduces Health Connections

Beginning the week of January 9, University faculty and staff can connect to online resources and over-the-phone coaching for health improvement. This self-directed approach to wellness starts with a confidential online wellness assessment that can be found at: www.healthconnections.umn.edu. The assessment offers the user a personalized profile of his or her health status and risk factors. Every employee who logs on and completes the 20-minute online assessment is eligible to receive a $65 reward.

Based on the results of the wellness assessment, employees who are at moderate to high risk for serious illness will be invited to work with a health advisor over the phone to change their lifestyle. UPlan members who already have a chronic condition will be able to work with a registered nurse to increase their knowledge about how to better manage their disease. Every Health Connections’ participant who completes a follow-up health improvement program stands to earn another $65.

Beautiful U Day grants now available

Beautiful U Day grants are available to University student groups and departments for activities on or near Beautiful U Day (April 20, 2006).  More than $50,000 is available to fund projects that celebrate the University of Minnesota’s beauty and commitment to sustainability. Projects may include clean-up or sustainability programs, art events, academic lectures or research.  Applications are due January 27, with grants awarded on February 14.  For more information, visit www.buday.umn.edu

New course offered: History of Botanical Illustration

This spring, Dave McLaughlin, professor of plant biology, will teach a one-credit course on the history of botanical illustration. Meetings will be in the Biological Sciences Center and at University libraries and other locations to view original works.  This is a plant biology graduate course but is not restricted to graduate students. Background in botany or related fields is required. Course numbers are PBio 5960, 67735. To register, go to http://onestop.umn.edu/onestop/registration.html

PEOPLE

Mohamed Abdihalim (Biochemistry) is the first University of Minnesota student awarded the Jack Kent Cooke scholarship.  Abdihalim’s goal is to practice medicine in the United States and his native Somalia, treating and researching infectious diseases such as HIV/AIDS. The Jack Kent Cooke graduate scholarship is awarded to 65 outstanding students each year.  For more information go to http://www.jackkentcookefoundation.org  

Mark Bee (Ecology, Evolution, and Behavior) received a Grant-in-Aid of Research, Artistry and Scholarship award from the Graduate School for a study entitled "Auditory Scene Analysis and the 'Cocktail Party Problem' in Animal Acoustic Communication." Bee is a behavioral biologist who joined EEB in Fall 2005.

Meggan Craft (Ecology, Evolution, and Behavior) was awarded a Sigma Xi research grant to conduct research on disease outbreaks in the Serengeti Park in Tanzania, Africa. Craft is advised by Craig Packer (Ecology, Evolution, and Behavior).

Stan Erlandson (Genetics, Cell Biology, and Development) died of a stroke on December 5 at the age of 64.  Erlandson was internationally recognized for his research on the intestinal parasite Giardia, and for electron microscopy expertise. He received his Ph.D. at the University of Minnesota in 1967 and was a member of the Medical School faculty for many years.

Amber Hanson, an undergraduate majoring in biology and physiology, received the Fall 2005 Student Leader of the Semester Award from the Biology Colloquium Program.

Cynthia Weinig (Plant Biology) has been awarded a McKnight Land-Grant Professorship scholarship for her research “The genetic basis of adaptation in plants: Understanding how plants cope with environmental stress.”  The program is designed to advance the careers of assistant who have the potential to make significant contributions to their professorship fields.

Robin Wright (CBS associate dean) received a grant from the National Science Foundation, Division of Molecular and Cellular Biology, of $459,000 over three years for her research titled “Cold adaptation in yeast: the role of ER-associated degradation and sterol metabolism.”  Her co-principal investigator is Martin Bard from Indiana University-Purdue University, Indiana.

The research will lay the foundation for exploration of the genetics, molecular and cellular biology, and physiology of cold adaptation in yeast.  The project also provides training opportunities for students. At least one graduate student and six undergraduate students will be involved. 

Robert Zink (Ecology, Evolution, and Behavior) gave an invited lecture at the 2005 Gottinger Freilandtage in Germany, a conference on primate diversity.

EVENTS

Fire and Ice: Extreme Adventures from the Arctic to the Equator

Biology in Brazil: A Photo Journey
January 29, 2:00 p.m.
Bell Museum Auditorium

Biologist and former professional photographer Tony Gamble will share stories and images from his scientific expeditions to Brazil, where he has studied amphibians and reptiles and has photographed geckos, tree frogs, and iguanas (as well as rattlesnakes, vipers, coral snakes, boa constrictors and anacondas).

For more information visit http://www.bellmuseum.org/calendar.html

Deinard Memorial Lecture Series on Law & Medicine

The Science of Human Identification: From the Laboratory to the Courtroom
January 31, 11:30 a.m. - 1:00 p.m.
Mississippi Room, Coffman Memorial Union

David H. Kaye (Arizona State University) will discuss DNA typing, fingerprinting, and future implications of DNA databases for criminal investigations and personal privacy.

The event is free and open to the public. Registration is required if you wish to receive continuing education credits. RSVP to jointdgr@umn.edu or 612-625-0055.

For more information, go to http://www.jointdegree.umn.edu/conferences/