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Photo of a large bow around the U's M logo.

Holiday gift ideas from the U

By Pauline Oo

From eNews, December 2, 2004

If you're still looking for a unique gift for that special someone, try shopping at the University of Minnesota. Here are some suggestions ranging from a couple of bucks to... well, if you have a few thousand dollars to spare, then you'll want to read this article till the very end...

Gift certificates Mini Medical School For $60, you can buy a five-week crash course in medicine by world-class experts. The Mini Medical School offers a wide array of courses--from examining real brain tissue to learning about stem cell research--for those with an interest in, but little or no medical knowledge. The spring 2005 program will run from late March through April. To learn more, call Jemma Perkins at 612-626-7037.

UMAA When you buy the $40 University of Minnesota Alumni Association gift certificate, you're really giving that friend, colleague, or loved one a full-year's worth of rewards. Perks of a year's membership in UMAA include 6 issues of Minnesota magazine and discounts on U of M Bookstore purchases, continuing education classes, career services, athletic events, and travel services. To learn more, call 612-624-2323 or e-mail

The Showboat--U's floating theatre Available in any dollar amount, Showboat gift certificates are good for tickets to the U theatre department's production of The Importance of Being Earnest, June 17 to August 27, as well as riverboat rides and dinner cruises. Call 651-227-1100 to order and see for more information.

CCE The College of Continuing Education has gift certificates in any amount, redeemable toward its enrichment programs--Compleat Scholar (prices range from $70 to $300), Great Conversations ($28.50 per conversation), Split Rock Arts Program ($525 plus optional housing; $7 per Soirie event), Online Mentoring for Writers (prices vary on length of mentorship), and Curiosity Camps ($120). To learn more about the programs and their 2005 offerings, call 612-625-5760 or see

Poster and notecards The 2004-05 "Even Mother Nature Loves Maroon and Gold" poster and notecards feature Big Bluestem (Andropogon gerardii Vitman), the tallest of the prairie grasses native to Minnesota, which can grow as high as 12 feet. Former University photographer Tom Foley took the image--two blades of grass forming the shape of a heart--in his prairie garden. The posters are free, and each set of 15 notecards is $6. To place your order or learn more, see

A book From the smallest creatures cowering under submerged rocks to satellite images showing views from space... Superior Science, Stories of Lake Superior Research delves into the processes, results, and quirks of research happening around and in Lake Superior. The 72-page soft-cover book by the Minnesota Sea Grant program is based on presentations by some of Lake Superior's finest scientists, and it costs a mere $2. To order, see

A game In "The Lake Game: For People Who Care About Lakes," a bucket of water representing a lake gradually becomes polluted and depleted. Players assume roles ranging from tourist to industrialist to homeowner, and they learn how to balance decisions related to water pollution, personal values, and economics. The game is ideal for 10 to 30 players, and it takes 45 to 60 minutes to play. To print a copy of The Lake Game, see or to order one from the Minnesota Sea Grant, call 218-726-6191.

A bird Through the Raptor Center's "Back to the Wild: Release a Raptor" program, you can give someone the chance to hold and release a raptor. The cost--bald eagle ($1,500), peregrine falcon ($1,000), great-horned owl ($750), and Cooper's owl ($500)--includes invitations to special events, discounts on merchandise, a photograph of the release, and a certificate of recognition. To learn more, see

Fitness and fun For $25, you can buy a season pass to cross-country ski at UMORE Park, the 7,500-acre University research facility near Rosemount. The 10-mile Lone Rock Trail runs through gently rolling terrain, scenic woodland, and agricultural land. (Intermediate skill is required; the trail has frequent short hill climbs and descents.) To learn more, see

Food U's dairy store Among its most popular items are the Nuworld spread, Gouda cheese, aged cheddar, and ice cream--from plain vanilla to a chunky chocolate. All of the items sold at the Dairy Food Products Salesroom are made fresh on the Twin Cities campus in St. Paul. Buy them as gifts or pick up some gift certificates instead--available in $5 and $10 increments. The store is open on Wednesdays from 3 to 5 p.m. and is located in 166 Andrew Boss Laboratories for Meat Science (1354 Eckles Ave.). To learn more, see

Minnesota Landscape Arboretum Take your special someone to tea at the arboretum's cozy Fireplace Room, and then explore the grounds of this public garden--the largest in the Upper Midwest--together. The three-course tea, complete with freshly baked sweets and savories such as homemade scones topped with lemon curd and cream, is available every Wednesday (until March 30, 2005) from 3 to 4:30 p.m. The cost is $20 per person (in addition to the arboretum's gate admission of $7). Prepayment and reservations are required; call 952-443-1411.

Goldy memorabilia The U of M Bookstores has a versatile 13-inch, round stained glass featuring our favorite Gopher and its toothy grin. This $48 gift can be used as a decorative stepping stone in the garden or as an accent table (when you order the optional wrought iron base). To order or learn more, see

Create a scholarship An endowed scholarship isn't exactly a stocking stuffer, but many people have been honored at the U with a scholarship in their name. To learn more about creating a scholarship for that special someone, visit the University of Minnesota Foundation Web site at