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Board of Regents discusses goals of U's strategic plan

Regents also explore food security

March 28, 2014

University of Minnesota leaders took the next steps toward mapping the University of Minnesota Twin Cities’ future as a global land-grant institution that plays a key role in addressing the challenges of the 21st Century.

"For more than 160 years, Minnesotans and the world have looked to the University of Minnesota to help them overcome our greatest challenges in agriculture, medicine, industry, business, public policy, quality of life and more. But as the world around us becomes more complex, and the challenges we face become even more complicated and interconnected, the University’s work must also evolve," said Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs and Provost Karen Hanson. "We cannot rest on our laurels, so we are setting a path to be a pre-eminent global land-grant institution that meets the challenges of our diverse and changing world."

Hanson outlined and led a discussion with the University’s Board of Regents of four goals that will guide the Twin Cities campus strategic plan:

  1. Build an exceptional University where grand societal challenges are addressed – use the U’s depth and breadth to capitalize on its students, faculty, and staff to generate new knowledge, deliver an educated workforce and build partnerships across the state
  2. Support excellence and, with intention, reject complacency – streamline rules and regulations, set meaningful goals and metrics and empower faculty, staff and students to achieve
  3. Establish a culture of reciprocal engagement, capitalizing on our unique location – better leverage the resources and relationships available in the Twin Cities and across the state to the mutual benefit of all
  4. Aggressively recruit, retain and promote field-shaping researchers and teachers – build a pipeline to recruit and retain world-class teachers and researchers, support their work through a highly functional infrastructure and a culture of high expectations, reduce barriers for collaboration across disciplines and accelerate the pace at which knowledge and science benefit the public

The next step in the strategic planning process includes establishing implementation groups to focus in those areas.

The implementation groups will begin work immediately to develop strategies and action steps, and then provide input on required resources and how to measure success. The Board will review a draft of the full strategic plan this fall.

Developing solutions for food security

Working to meet the grand challenge of food security while sustaining our natural resources is a top priority for the College of Food, Agricultural and Natural Resource Sciences (CFANS). Brian Buhr, interim CFANS dean, along with CFANS faculty, research and outreach staff and industry partners, illustrated the U’s expertise in four key aspects of this work: sustaining agricultural productivity; sustaining natural resources and biodiversity; assuring renewable energy, climate and water resources; and developing positive economic solutions.

Among the examples they discussed were:

  • Community engagement, such as the UMN Bee Squad, and industry partnerships, including with PepsiCo to find solutions for plant improvement
  • Attracting and retaining field-changing faculty and researchers
  • Analyzing information, genomics and technology through applied informatics
  • Providing excellence and a depth of expertise in crop pest and disease, led by the Stakman-Borlaug Cereal Rust Center
  • Providing field experience and multidisciplinary education to students
  • Conducting global research and engagement

"Food security is of the utmost importance to the world’s population both now and in the future," said Board Chair Richard Beeson. "The U is at the forefront of this work and brings a broad set of expertise to solve this pressing problem. As the ecologist Charles Godfrey said, ‘if we fail on food, we fail on everything.’"

Honoring promising faculty

The Board recognized eight junior faculty members who have been named McKnight Land-Grant Professors for 2014-16. The award aims to advance the careers of the U’s most promising junior faculty and aligns with the draft strategic planning goal of retaining world-class faculty.

The professors included:

  • David J. Flannigan, Chemical Engineering and Materials Science, UMTC: Materials science at the space-time limit with ultrafast transmission electron microscopy
  • Sarah E. Gollust, Health Policy and Management, UMTC: Leveraging communication science to illuminate and overcome health policy challenges
  • Christophe Lenglet, Radiology, UMTC: Mapping the human brain through advanced computational techniques for magnetic resonance imaging
  • Pamela Lutsey, Epidemiology and Community Health, UMTC: Identifying novel and modifiable risk factors for cardiovascular disease
  • Francis X. Shen, Law, UMTC: How neuroscience will transform law
  • James D. Van de Ven, Mechanical Engineering, UMTC: Innovations in energy storage and conversion with fluid power
  • Shannon Drysdale Walsh, Political Science, UMD: Engendering state institutions: State response to violence against women in Latin America
  • Travis Workman, Asian Languages and Literature, UMTC: Melodrama and the Cold War: Ideas and emotion in Korean cinemas

Scholars are chosen for their potential for important contribution to their field; the degree to which their past achievements and current ideas demonstrate originality, imagination and innovation; the significance of their research; and the potential for attracting outstanding students.

The Board also acknowledged new Medical School Dean and Vice President for Health Sciences Dr. Brooks Jackson and new president and chief executive officer of the University of Minnesota Foundation Kathleen Schmidlkofer.

On Thursday, March 26, Regents visited the Medical School and other health sciences schools to focus on the role of these schools in fulfilling vital clinical, educational and research needs for the state. Regents also participated in a celebration commemorating the 100th birthday and agricultural leadership of U alum Norman Borlaug.

See President Kaler's report for the Board.

The Board will meet again on May 8-9. For more, go to regents.umn.edu.

Twin Cities Campus: