Weather Forecast


Regents emphasize need for support from students and business leaders in appealing to legislature

Regents David McMillan (left) and John Frobenius (right) visited the University of Minnesota, Morris on Thursday, Nov. 1 and Friday, Nov. 2 to discuss the importance of public investment in the University of Minnesota. They were joined by Regents Thomas Devine and Richard Beeson. (Kim Ukura/Sun Tribune)

MORRIS - In order for the University of Minnesota to build support with the state legislature, two key stakeholders - students and business leaders - need to participate in sharing the University's story, said University of Minnesota Regent David McMillan during a visit to the University of Minnesota, Morris last week.

"If we can demonstrate to legislators that we're not taking either of those for granted, it changes the way the message is delivered," said McMillan.

McMillan was at UMM last Thursday and Friday along with three other members of the University of Minnesota Board of Regents - Richard Beeson of St. Paul, John Frobenius of St. Cloud and Thomas Devine of Chanhassen - to meet with campus members and emphasize the importance of public investment in the university.

In the past, the Board of Regents has held some of their full meetings on the coordinate campuses, but for reasons of expense have not happened recently, said UMM Chancellor Jacquie Johnson. The visit from some members of the board is a "less formal way of meeting and seeing and listening and interacting" with members of the board.

The Board of Regents is a 12-member governing board for the University of Minnesota that is elected by the state legislature. One regent is elected from each of the state's eight congressional districts, and four are elected at-large to serve six-year terms.

At a public meeting on Friday morning, McMillan, Beeson and Frobenius emphasized the importance of campus/community connections and praised the work on green energy and agricultural research being done both at UMM and the West Central Research and Outreach Center.

The takeaway from the visit for Beeson was how the research being done by local scholars enhances undergraduate development and helps connect the university to the business community in the area.

"The most successful campuses of the future will be those that are able to connect with the communities and be able to parlay that into real partnerships - I think you've got the makings of that here," said Beeson.

Beeson also noted that the campus' branding as a liberal arts college had "dominated" the conversation about UMM, leaving an impression that there isn't much research going on.

"I think the campus will need to redefine itself both in terms of its internal work and with the business community," said Beeson. "You've got some success that started with the brand of 'being green' ... capital is attracted to positive leadership."

Frobenius agreed with Beeson, noting that UMM has added to its liberal arts mission to fit into a specific niche with environmental issues while also appealing to more groups outside UMM.

"I'm pleased to see the intensity of the business community," Frobenius added, noting that in many cases businesses are not necessarily sources of funding, but could have the venture capital to turn research into a public product.

McMillan concluded by praising the level of student engagement he saw from UMM students.

"I have not seen, at UMD or the U of M, Twin Cities, where I have had two students and kids of my own as students, a commitment to making sure the students are engaged through every element of their student life," said McMillan. "You've got these students engaged and they're going to come out ready for that workforce, I'm quite confident of that."