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President Bob Bruininks delivers his 2006 State of the U address.

President Bob Bruininks delivers his 2006 State of the University address from the Morris campus.

Bruininks delivers State of the U

Address from Morris campus highlights progress of transforming the U, proposes new funding authority for biomedical sciences infrastructure

By Rick Moore

March 3, 2006

The pursuit of a new degree of excellence at the University of Minnesota is already yielding results, and is in best interest of the state and its economy, President Bob Bruininks said Thursday in his annual State of the U address, which was held for the first time on the University's Morris campus.

"The state of the University is strong," Bruininks said, "and we are making great strides in the quality of our programs and the impact of our public mission." He outlined a number of measures of improvement at the University--in student preparation and achievement, in procuring royalties and commercializing intellectual property, and in raising funds for scholarships. He spoke of the gains the U has made in its financial partnership with the state, as well as concerns for the current legislative session. He also reported on the progress of the University's Strategic Positioning initiative and the U's goal to become one of the top three public research universities in the world in the next decade.

"We've shown we're willing to look hard at our current profile and direction," he said. "We've set a bold, aspirational goal for the University of Minnesota that is already yielding results. We're working toward real benefits for our students, toward a culture dedicated to our land-grant mission--a mission that supports the highest levels of excellence in academic achievement and in service and productivity."

"This is our opportunity to be a part of greatness," said Bruininks. "It is up to us to ensure a stronger future for the State of Minnesota, while remaining connected to the noble values of our 155-year heritage."

Bruininks also used the State of the University address to announce a novel proposal for funding of the biomedical sciences, an area that's key to the University's success.

At approximately $300 million, the biomedical sciences comprise half of the U's research portfolio. Over the last 10 years, the U has opened three state-of-the-art research facilities at costs ranging from $30 million to $70 million each. But Bruininks said the University expects to need 750,000 square feet of new, technologically sophisticated research space over the next decade.

"Investments in the critical biomedical field will be essential in our vision to become one of the world's top public research universities," said Bruininks. "Twenty other states, including California and our neighbor Wisconsin, are making enormous investments in biomedical science research. In order to be competitive and not fall behind in this vital arena, we must add five state-of-the-art buildings--and the researchers to fill them--in the next decade."

The new plan would create in state statute a new bonding authority--and authorize $330 million in state general obligation debt--dedicated to financing biomedical research facilities. The plan will go to the Board of Regents next week and, if approved, will be brought to the Minnesota Legislature.

Text of speech

Read the full text of the 2006 State of the University address.

It was in last year's State of the University address that Bruininks first made the case for fundamentally transforming the University for the 21st century in what's become known as the Strategic Positioning Initiative. He thanked the more than 500 community members throughout Minnesota who have been working since September on nearly 40 task forces to develop recommendations related to the initiative. And he announced the proposed names of the three new colleges created in the realignment of colleges and programs on the Twin Cities campus: the College of Design; the College of Food, Agricultural and Natural Resource Sciences; and the College of Education and Human Development. The regents will consider the new names at their meeting next week.

Bruininks said that the University is also in the early planning states of a system-wide, interdisciplinary Institute on the Environment, a field in which the U has many strengths, "but where fragmentation keeps us from reaching our full potential," he said. By coordinating efforts throughout the University system, the institute would position the University as a leader in environmental issues, and "allow us to become more than the sum of our parts in this critical area."

Thursday marked the first time that the State of the U speech was given at one of the coordinate campuses. Students from Morris had suggested the idea, and Bruininks decided to take them up on the offer. Scores of enthusiastic students were among the 200 or so in attendance at Morris's Proscenium Theater, which was festooned with maroon and gold flowers. The venue afforded Bruininks the opportunity to publicly thank Sam Schuman, who has been chancellor at UMM since 1998 but is stepping down after this year.

"We've been fortunate to benefit from 'Chancellor Sam's' visionary leadership, which has improved the school's academic foundation and the student experience so significantly," said Bruininks.

Bruininks concluded the address by calling on the University community to communicate to neighbors and elected officials the value of a leading research university to our region's future.

"Each of us--each of us--must rededicate ourselves to making the University one of the world's top public research and educational university systems," he said. "This is our opportunity to be a part of greatness. It is up to us to ensure a stronger future for the State of Minnesota, while remaining connected to the noble values of our 155-year heritage."